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George Strait pulled off a cool surprise for the second year in a row as he closed the UMG label luncheon show at the Ryman Auditorium, Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 27), during Country Radio Seminar. George was the unannounced surprise guest at the 2012 show and, as a UMG label executive noted, there's no better way to top George Strait than with the man himself.
Backed by two guitarists and a pair of backup vocalists, George kicked off his three-song set with "Here for a Good Time" and followed with his classic hit "The Chair," written by famed country composers Dean Dillon and Hank Cochran. "Dean is one of my favorite writers," George pointed out. King George closed with his current single, "Give It All We Got Tonight."
The industry crowd attending the private showcase had already been treated to a top roster of performers even before George took the stage. Lady Antebellum opened the show with the trio's latest hit, "Downtown," after which the group's Hillary Scott, who is several months pregnant, was given a special T-shirt for the new baby. Lady A's Charles Kelley returned later to sing with Darius Rucker on "Wagon Wheel." Billy Currington previewed a new song from his upcoming album called "23 Degrees South," while the red-hot Kacey Musgraves performed the inspiring "Follow Your Arrow." Little Big Town was introduced to loud applause and cheers before lighting into "Your Side of the Bed" from the group's Tornado album.
But the act who truly made the Ryman rafters rattle was newcomer Mickey Guyton, a young lady who demonstrated considerable range and impressive vocal control. She drew a standing ovation following her performance of "Better Than You Left Me."
Luke Bryan noted, "It's an honor to share the stage with so many incredible artists," before introducing singer/songwriter Chris Stapleton, who accompanied Luke on "Drink a Beer." Dierks Bentley drew laughs with the tune "Drunk on a Plane" from his upcoming album.
A touching moment occurred when Vince Gill dedicated "Go Rest High on That Mountain" to the late Mindy McCready. Eric Church followed with "Like Jesus Does" from his award-winning Chief album.
Other acts included David Nail, Scotty McCreery, Josh Turner, Lauren Alaina, Eric Paslay, Randy Montana, Kelleigh Bannen, the Brothers Osborne and Drake White.