Yes, it was soggy, yes, it may go down as the wettest CMA Music Festival in history, but it also may go down as one of the most exciting. In fact, on night four of the festival, the excitement started before the gates even opened. Torrential rain and lightning hit Nashville just as crowds were beginning to show up at Nissan Stadium for the nightly shows. Fortunately, concert goers were given shelter in the stadium’s concourse until the weather passed.
It wasn’t likely that anyone was going to leave anyway. The final night of the festival was one of the best. OK, they were all pretty great, but the CMA really went out with a bang with this one.
Any night that includes the legendary David Lee Murphy on the bill is a good night. In addition to his own monster hits, “Party Crowd” and “Dust On the Bottle,” David Lee also nailed a solo performance of “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” his hit single with pal Kenny Chesney.
In typical fashion, Chris Janson presented a tireless set to the packed stadium that kicked off with the rollicking “Redneck Life.” His set also included his biggest hits like “Fix a Drink,” “Buy Me a Boat” and the smash he co-wrote for Tim McGraw, “Truck Yeah.” One of the most magical moments of the night was his transition from “Drunk Girl” to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” complete with harmonica accompaniment.
Trisha Yearwood wasn’t on the main stage for very long, but she made a big impact by sharing her brand new song, “Every Girl In This Town,” with the enthusiastic crowd.
Sometimes you don’t realize how much success a band has had until you tell them they only have a 30-minute set. Old Dominion’s 30-minutes was filled to the brim with hit-after-hit that had the crowd on their feet and singing along to smashes like “Written In the Sand,” “Hotel Key,” “No Such Thing As a Broken Heart,” “Make It Sweet,” and their brand new song, “One Man Band.”
It isn’t as if we didn’t know Maren Morris is a star. And it isn’t as if we didn’t know that she could slay a live crowd. But it’s always worth being reminded, especially when Maren peels off a set like she did on the final night of CMA Music Festival. From early hits like “My Church,” “Rich” and “I Could Use a Love Song,” to newer favorites like “Girl,” “The Bones” and her crossover smash, “The Middle,” Maren had the crowd blowing out their vocal chords singing along. And when Brandi Carlile stepped on stage to perform “Common” with the talented singer- songwriter…drop the mic.
Again, 30 minutes just isn’t enough time when you have a career like Keith Urban’s. The great thing is that when you’re a musician the caliber of Keith, you can get a lot of music into that half hour. High energy songs like “Wasted Time,” “Summer Nights” and “The Fighter” seemed to zing by and even more tender tunes like “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” “Cop Car,” and his newest release, “We Were,” seemed to be over in a blink. But Keith couldn’t resist the opportunity to make a moment with the 40,000 plus people in the venue. Asking the lighting crew to take down all of the stadium’s lights, he then gave the crowd the power, asking them to illuminate the stage with their cell phones for “Love Somebody Like You.”
The energy didn’t falter a lick with Luke Bryan’s set. In fact, he carried the Sunday night crowd into the wee hours of Monday morning. Kicking off his short 30-minutes with “Country Girl (Shake It For Me),” Luke also managed to give the audience many of their favorites, like “Rain Is A Good Thing,” “That’s My Kinda Night,” and “Play It Again,” along with newer hits like “What Makes You Country” and “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset” his brand new fun romp, “Knockin’ Boots.”
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The most unexpected performance of the night, though, belongs to Nashville’s Andrew Jackson Elementary Eagle Honor Choir. Since money raised during CMA Music Festival goes to keeping the arts thriving in schools, the talented group of young people showed their appreciation to the CMA and the participating artists by performing their own impressive rendition of Carrie Underwood’s “The Champion.”
The future of music and CMA Music Festival looks very promising, indeed.