One of the most fun parts of the evening performances at Nissan Stadium during CMA Music Festival is the endless number of special guests that hit the big stage to collaborate with country music superstars. Country icons, Rock & Roll legends, Urban favorites and Pop hitmakers have all stood under that magical spotlight to provide a magical moment to Music Fest ticket holders.
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However, on the third night of the annual event, the stadium erupted with unparalleled enthusiasm when Billy Ray Cyrus, the first act of the night, brought out his new pal Lil Nas X, for their cover of “Old Town Road.”
That alone may have been enough to make for the most epic performance of the entire event, however, the ante was upped when Keith Urban also joined the pair for the song. Of course, there were and are plenty of skeptics, but it was hard to not enjoy their few minutes on stage. Lil Nas, dressed in University of Tennessee orange jeans and jacket, and white hat and cowboy boots was a pure delight, dancing around the stage with an unbridled joy that was absolutely contagious.
Of course, Billy Ray also delivered his own classics like “Some Gave All” and “Achy Breaky Heart” before he turned the stage over to Brett Young. And Brett had his own dynamic set reminding us that in a relatively short amount of time, the handsome young singer-songwriter and father-to-be has amassed a collection of hits like “Mercy,” “Sleep Without You,” “In Case You Didn’t Know” and “Like I Loved You.” Lucky were the fans who got to hear them all performed live at CMA Music Festival.
It was great to see Miranda Lambert back on the big stage, and in typical Miranda fashion, she brought along her Pistol Annies gal pals to get things rolling. This ridiculously talented trio effortlessly peeled off “Hell On Heels” and “Sugar Daddy” before Miranda stepped away for her own solo set. Deservedly so. After a year off, fans were thrilled to hear the superstar sing her own string of smashes like “Gunpowder and Lead,” “Kerosene,” “Automatic” and “Mama’s Broken Heart.” Always one to give a bit extra, though, Miranda also offered up a taste of what’s to come with a new song she has recorded, the sassy and high octane, “Locomotive.”
The transition from one performing powerhouse to another was seamless when Luke Combs took the stage. One of the most chill new artists in the format, Luke seemed relatively unfazed by the massive crowd he was performing for, but with their enthusiastic greeting when he took the stage, it must have felt like he was just among friends. Like Brett, Luke’s set was filled with hits from “She Got the Best of Me,” to “One Number Away” and “Hurricane.” Of course, he
couldn’t leave the stage without “Beautiful Crazy” and his soon-to-be smash, “Beer Never Broke My Heart” either.
Dierks Bentley performed a highly interactive set, encouraging the crowd to sing the Whoa-oh- ohs in “Woman, Amen,” which they happily and enthusiastically did. In fact, they needed very little encouragement to sing along with the rest of Dierks’ memorable set that also included his recent smash “Burning Man,” “Somewhere On a Beach,” and “I Hold On,” which he thoughtfully dedicated to fellow country star Granger Smith whose son died in a drowning accident earlier in the week. Dierks also invited his Burning Man tour mate, Tenille Townes, to the stage for her own mini-set before she filled in for Elle King in “Different for Girls.”
Tim McGraw closed out the evening with his own collection of smashes. In spite of his set being plagued with audio issues, fan support was loud and unwavering, as was his energy, as he crisscrossed the stage, leaping from platform to platform to get closer to the crowd. That crowd, in fact, was singing loud enough that when the sound failed, they had his back through songs like “Truck Yeah,” “Shotgun Rider,” “Something Like That” and “Southern Voice.” And keeping the spirit of collaboration and holding up the next generation of country stars, Tim brought Luke Combs back out to help him with the fan favorite “Real Good Man.” Of course, he needed no help closing out the night with the one that brought him to the dance—“Indian Outlaw.”
Night three was definitely one for the books.