By Leslie Schichtel
LP Field welcomed Friday’s headliners to CMA Music Fest’s most sought-after stage. For all the star power on the program, emcee Storme Warren of GAC’s “Headline Country” and “Country Music Across America,” placed the audience at the center of attention in his greeting.
“Special shout-out to Section 315. I told them I would say hi,” Warren said. “It’s great to be back with you for night number two of CMA Music Fest 2012. The fact that you are all right here means we did a great job last night.”
The legendary Oak Ridge Boys then opened the night’s concert with the national anthem as fireworks illuminated the sky. Then, before allowing the band to exit, Warren proclaimed, “When you get The Oak Ridge Boys, you get ‘Elvira,’” at which point the band roused the crowd with their classic hit.
Following the Oak Ridge Boys’ performance, Warren announced Ronnie Milsap, who kicked off with “Stranger in My House.” He also performed “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It for the World,” “It Was Almost Like a Song,” “(I’m A) Stand By My Woman Man,” “Pure Love,” “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me” and “Honky Tonk Woman.”
The show then transitioned to Country newcomer Brantley Gilbert. The Georgia native met the crowd in jeans and a black baseball cap emblazoned with “Let’s Raise Some Hell” before energizing the stage with “My Kinda Party.” His set included hits such as “Dirt Road Anthem,” “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do,” “Country Must Be Country Wide” and “Kick It in the Sticks.”
Jake Owen fittingly stepped onto the stage barefoot and in blue jeans, crooning to his 2009 hit “Eight Second Ride” soon after. Then he invited fans “at the top of their lungs to yell yee haw,” Owen insisted as he transitioned into his song “Yee Haw.” He prefaced “Alone with You” with a playful observation that “when this many people are here, I’m sure somebody is going home with a booty call tonight, and this is the perfect song for you.” He even gave crowd-surfing a go during “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You,” before closing with “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” featuring an unexpected rap breakdown. A pleased fan tweeted to the Jumbotron Twitter feed, “Who knew Jake Owen could rap?! #loveit #cmafest.”
The focus moved then to a satellite stage at the far end of LP Field, where Gwen Sebastian delivered a short acoustic set. Between songs, she paid tribute to her coach on “The Voice,” noting “I was on Team Blake on the Voice and I just want to say right now that Blake Shelton has done a lot for me so I want to say thank you for everything they’ve done for me and Country Music.”
The 2011 CMA New Artist of the Year, The Band Perry, then took the main stage, opening with the intro from Fun’s “We Are Young” before playing Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “You Lie.” The trio then paused to express its thanks.
“You may not know this, but you have changed the lives of my brothers and me,” Kimberly Perry insisted.” From the three of us, straight to you— sing it if you know it Nashville, this is called ‘All Your Life.’” They also performed “Postcard from Paris” and “If I Die Young” before bowing, again offering their gratitude and making their exit.
Warren continued the theme of performers giving back to fans with his mid-show giveaway. “I would have a guitar in my hand right now, but The Band Perry is signing it right now as is every other artist on this stage,” he revealed.” Text the number on the screen to enter for your chance to win.”
The next performer, Blake Shelton, rocked the stadium with his party song “All About Tonight” as fans batted beach balls back and forth overhead. Shelton’s performance incorporated his hits, “God Gave Me You,” “Drink on It” and his new single “Over.” Before concluding his set, Shelton voiced his own special request. “Just one time before I leave this stage, I want to see all of y’all sing every word to a song,” Shelton said of “Honey Bee.” Thousands of people happily obliged.
Next up was Randy Houser, who performed in the crowd’s midst from the satellite stage at the center of the field. Opening with his new song “How Country Feels,” the “Boots On” singer pumped infectious energy from the heart of the stadium.
Kimberly Perry took over Warren’s position as host to introduce the spectacular closing set by Carrie Underwood. Clad in sequined denim shorts and an American flag tank, she animated the field with her most recent single, “Good Girl.” Hits from each of her three albums came next, including “Wasted,” “All-American Girl,” “Jesus Take the Wheel,” “Blown Away,” “Cowboy Casanova,” “Undo It,” “Last Name” and “Before He Cheats.” The audience danced in the aisles on LP Field as she finished her set.
“I’m so happy to be here tonight with you guys. I came here once upon a time when I was 14 years old,” she shared during a short break. “It’s so fun to remember what that was like and then be here now on this stage—somewhere I never thought I’d be. I’m so honored and so excited.”
The night’s concerts echoed this sentiment, further distinguishing LP Field tonight from many other shows Country Music goers may have experienced before. From flying cameras shooting the event for the ABC special “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” to Twitter feeds streaming on giant screens, it was clear that the culture of Country Music is expanding faster and wider than ever before.
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