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Everybody in Nashville for CMA Music Festival has had a few days to get loose, so on the third evening of LP Field concerts (June 8), the crowd was feeling good. Performers on the main stage ranged from the legendary to the still up-and-coming, with everything in between.
Outside LP Field, new artists including Jon Pardi showcased at the BMI Tailgate Stage to get ready for the main event. Inside, Brett Eldredge did the national anthem honors.
The first full set went to Grand Ole Opry members The Oak Ridge Boys, who delighted the crowd with some wonderfully old-school country tunes like “Tryin’ to Please Two Women,” “Bobbie Sue” and the classic “Elvira,” with Richard Sterban’s chest rattling bass oom-papa-mow-mows.
”Thank you to the Country Music Association for every once in a while letting some of us old guys come out and sing,” quipped Joe Bonsall. The group also made a dedication to George Jones’ widow, Nancy, singing “Same Ole Me.”
Hot new duo Florida Georgia Line was up next, entering to the thunderous beats of “It’z Just What We Do.” The crowd-pleasing set also included “Round Here,” “Get Your Shine On” and the monster hit “Cruise,” with Nelly’s new rap verse sung in the intro by Tyler Hubbard.
The Robertsons from Duck Dynasty were on hand to help emcee Storme Warren introduce the bands, and brother Jep cracked wise about the family’s bread and butter duck calls: “If you don’t hunt, you can always turn it into a party favor.” They also apparently have a holiday album coming called Duck the Halls. No joke.
The evening’s first surprise was a quick set from rocker Lenny Kravitz, who performed with Jason Aldean on the CMT Music Awards earlier in the week. And indeed, Jason came out to play “American Woman” and “Are You Gonna Go My Way.” Lenny’s set ended with a very extended jam on “Let Love Rule,” leaving many in the audience scratching their heads and wondering why the guy from The Hunger Games wanted them to sing along.
The country aspect of the concert got back on track with Dierks Bentley, who ripped through a dynamite set that included “Am I the Only One,” “5-1-5-0,” and “What Was I Thinkin'.” He even trotted out co-writer Hillary Lindsey to sing Kacey Musgraves’ part on the new single “Bourbon in Kentucky.” Dierks wrapped up with his patriotic anthem, “Home,” saying, “I don’t have a hometown. I have a home country. It’s called the United States of America.” He kissed the stage and thanked the crowd for helping build his success.
The other wild card performer was pop star Kelly Clarkson, who quickly laid any doubts about her country cred to rest. In addition to more dancey pop numbers like “Stronger,” she sounded extraordinary on country-tinged songs like “Don’t Rush” (sans Vince), new single “Tie It Up,” and brought Jason out again for “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” And, in a really brilliant decision, performed Garth Brooks’ hit “Ain’t Goin’ Down Til the Sun Comes Up” and got Trisha Yearwood to come out and sing with her. That’s how you win a country audience to your side.
The night’s final performer was Keith Urban, who shined on stadium-ready tunes like “You Gonna Fly” and “Long Hot Summer” while people danced in the aisles. He showed off his guitar prowess on “Stupid Boy” and “Little Bit of Everything.” “I hate that we have to play so short,” he remarked. “I wish we could stay all night, guys.” He closed out with “You Look Good in My Shirt,” signing his guitar and handing it to one lucky audience member, and walking out the back of the stadium to his truck as his band played him off.
As crowds exited LP Field to head back to home and hotel, Keith’s truck drove right through the throng, and people cheered their approval. Only at CMA Music Fest, folks.