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The 48th annual Academy of Country Music Awards, held last night (April 7) in Las Vegas, had more music than you can shake a drumstick at. From Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan’s all-star show-opening performance of Blake’s new single, “Boys 'Round Here,” to Hunter Hayes dueting with the legendary Stevie Wonder, it was a night of often spectacular musical moments.
As such, it was pretty hard to narrow down a favorite performance. So we came up with a list of five that we felt really set the bar for this year’s ACMs. See if you don’t agree.
Backed by his pal Gwen Sebastian, Blake turned “Sure Be Cool If You Did” into an acoustic gem, stripping away all the production and gloss of the studio version. Most importantly, his minimalist take on the debut single from his new album, Based on a True Story, gave Blake the chance to remind fans that while he may throw out staccato lines like chew tobacco spit in new single “Boys 'Round Here,” he is still a damn fine country singer.
After debuting his new single, “I Want Crazy,” Hunter was joined by Stevie Wonder for a duet on Stevie’s classic “Sir Duke.” But it was Hunter's encore with Stevie during “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” that truly displayed the country wunderkind’s talents. While Blake and still-in-shock Entertainer of the Year winner Luke vamped through the choruses with Stevie, Hunter laid down a backbeat on drums. And here we thought he was only a great guitar player.
The television return of Garth is an event in and of itself, but when he pairs up with King George, it becomes a once-in-a-lifetime, can’t-miss, let's-rewind-our-DVRs moment. As a tribute to Dick Clark, who was instrumental in shaping the ACMs’ awards shows, Garth sang his hit “The Dance,” before joining George on “The Cowboy Rides Away,” the theme of George's current farewell tour, which doubled perfectly as a salute to the late TV icon. There were many wet eyes in the audience, and no doubt at home, as the two legends redefined “poignant” with their performance. Our only complaint? We wish the producers devoted a little more time to the segment, which seemed all too brief.
You hardly ever see Eric without his signature aviator shades and baseball hat. But perhaps knowing that an overuse of the look, however cool it may be, may eventually turn him into a parody of himself, Eric left his glasses and cap behind for the evening’s second-best performance, a stirring, almost spiritual, take on “Like Jesus Does.” Sporting a sharp haircut and a beard that later, when he did don his sunglasses to accept album of the year for Chief, made him look like a young Bocephus, Eric mesmerized fans and peers alike with his eye-contact performance. He had the crowd in his hand before he even opened his mouth.
Hello, Band Perry. The trio of Kimberly, Reid and Neil Perry may already have had No. 1 hits and a lion’s share of radio play, but they had their coming-out party at the ACMs last night, bringing down the house down with a literally jumping performance of the new single from their album Pioneer. The brothers never looked more dynamic and confident, and Kimberly was devilishly commanding, delivering the lyrics to the kiss-off anthem with a level of defiance that, well, nearly frightened us. And did you see her jumping in heels? In heels, mind you. In a word: Wow. There are rock bands who don’t perform this ferociously.
Listen to all 5 performances on our YouTube playlist: “Top Five 2013 ACM Awards Music Moments”