There was no shortage of stars during Sony Music Nashville's Thursday night (March 3) party aboard the General Jackson showboat. First of all, the event was hosted by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who sang a song with Tim McGraw, and special appearances were made by Carrie Underwood and Charlie Sheen.
OK, so the guy claiming to be Charlie Sheen looked a lot like Brad Paisley, who later closed the show by hosting a reunion of Alabama members Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook.
With Paisley pretending to be the troubled actor during a comedy bit between musical performances, Paltrow asked him if he was on drugs.
"Yes, I am on drugs," he responded. "It's drugs called Brad Paisley."
The party, known in music industry circles as the "boat show," is an annual event during Country Radio Seminar, which concludes Friday in Nashville. It's one of many record label events aimed at saying thanks and currying favor with radio programmers attending the seminar.
As the showboat cruised the Cumberland River in Nashville, Sony rolled out the red carpet -- not to mention dinner and an open bar -- to showcase performances by its established acts (including Sara Evans, Jerrod Niemann, Jake Owen, Josh Thompson and Chris Young) and an array of newcomers (Brent Anderson, Bradley Gaskin, Casey James and an all-female quartet, the Lunabelles).
Paltrow's involvement in the Sony party stemmed from her involvement in Country Strong, the film that co-stars McGraw. She opened the evening by performing "Coming Home," an Oscar-nominated song she performed last weekend on the Academy Awards. After some initial patter with the audience, she introduced McGraw to join her on "Me and Tennessee," their new single from the film soundtrack.
The actress was obviously well-coached in some of her jokes aimed at the country radio insiders, but her line about McGraw's long-standing dispute with his own record label seemed to come quite naturally.
"Mike Curb, the head of Curb Records, doesn't know he just did that," Paltrow told the crowd after she and McGraw sang the duet. "So could you keep that quiet?"
Along the way, Sony executives presented Underwood a plaque recognizing that her latest album, Play On, has been certified double platinum for shipments of 2 million copies. Young was given a plaque commemorating his three consecutive No. 1 singles.
Underwood provided a powerhouse performance of "Undo It" and followed it with one of her concert staples, making a segue from "Jesus, Take the Wheel" to "How Great Thou Art."
In the final set of the evening, Paisley opened with the title song from his upcoming album, This Is Country Music, and explained why the project was arriving on May 24, later than originally announced.
"I turned it in a month late," he said. "So it's coming out a month later. I'm sorry."
When he debuted the title song in November during the CMA Awards, it was clear the lyrics made a strong statement about country music adhering to its core values and remembering its history. He underscored those sentiments Thursday night by introducing his next single, "Old Alabama," a tribute to the band that dominated the country charts during the 1980s. With the opening rhythm and musical riff borrowing heavily from Alabama's trademark sound, Owen, Gentry and Cook eased onstage unannounced to help Paisley perform the new song.
Paisley then asked the Country Music Hall of Fame members to remain onstage with him and his band to perform one of Alabama's biggest hits, "Tennessee River." When the song concluded, the crowd remained on its feet and continued cheering, prompting Paisley to ask them to perform another classic. In pondering possible song titles, he said. "We didn't rehearse any more [songs], but we don't have to."
Slowing the pace, Owen began singing the opening lyrics of the final song of the night, "Lady Down on Love." By the time Gentry and Cook began adding their harmonies, the vocal blend was so perfect, it sounded as though Alabama had never made the decision to stop touring. It's hard to fathom what it would have sounded like with a quick rehearsal.