CMA Fest is the marathon of music festivals and by Sunday, many found themselves running on fumes. The high temps didn’t let up, but with the lineup for the final day packed full of so many can’t-miss artists, the crowds came out once again for a final day of music and memories in Music City. The Chevrolet Riverfront stage proved to be one of the hottest spots in town, both literally and figuratively. Phil Vassar has been entertaining CMA Fest crowds for years and we arrived just in time to catch him standing on a piano, leading the crowd in a sing-along of “Just Another Day in Paradise”.
With the vocal issues that kept him sidelined earlier this year behind him, Tyler Farr showed up on the Riverfront ready to entertain, and that’s exactly what he did. The crowd thoroughly enjoyed not only the tunes in his set, which included everything from breakout single “Redneck Crazy” to current chart climber “Better In Boots,” but his witty banter between songs. “It’s hotter than Satan’s MacBook Pro up in here!” – just one of many humorous ways Farr found to describe the weather.
Old Dominion has come a long way in just a year’s time. “Break Up With Him” was just starting to make its mark on country radio when the band played CMA Fest in 2015. By November, the song had become their first number one and now as they played the Riverfront Stage, they were riding high on their second hit, “Snapback.” If the way the crowd sang along to every song (not just those that have already hit radio) are any indication, this band is on the fast track to the top.
Closing out the Chevrolet Riverfront Stage for the year were Preston Brust and Chris Lucas, collectively known as LOCASH. The pair thrilled the crowd with an energetic performance which included current single “I Know Somebody” and “Truck Yeah,” which they co-wrote for Tim McGraw. Perhaps the most memorable moment came when the duo was surprised on stage by David Ross, head of Reviver Records, who presented them with plaques commemorating the gold certification of “I Love This Life.”
It was back to the stadium at this point for the grand finale. Even with all the star power that had been packed into the previous three nights, Sunday’s lineup was stacked. The evening began once again with “The Star Spangled Banner,” beautifully performed by Ray Stevens, one of country’s great voices.
Exile may not be a name you hear often in mainstream country news or on your radio these days, but the group had the crowd on their feet to kick off the final lineup at Nissan Stadium. Throwback hit “Kiss You All Over” played especially well with fans.
When Little Big Town takes the stage, you can always expect them to give their all and this night was no exception. Karen Fairchild paused to acknowledge the tragedy that had occurred in Orlando on this day and shared what she called a “divine appointment” to sing a new song, “Miracle.” The band was joined by a church choir and a surprise guest, co-writer Pharrell Williams, as the stadium was illuminated in a cell phone glow.
Thomas Rhett and Brett Eldredge pulled double duty at CMA Fest, as performers and co-hosts for the upcoming television special. It seemed only fitting that Rhett and Eldredge took the stage together and the pair launched into Rhett’s newest single, “Vacation.” The remainder of Rhett’s crowd-pleasing set was comprised of his last five singles, all of which have reached number one on the airplay charts.
Brett Eldredge returned, next in the night’s amazing roster of perfomers. Eldredge sounded smooth as ever on his own string of hits and his latest “I Wanna Be That Song.” Rhett rejoined him at the close of his set to sing their recent collaboration “You Can’t Stop Me.”
What can we say that we haven’t already said about Keith Urban. Who doesn’t love this guy? From the unassuming way he takes the stage, to his mind-blowing guitar prowess, Urban never fails to amaze us and we’ll catch a show every chance we get. His CMA Fest song selection drew heavily from his latest album, Ripcord, including recent hits “Break On Me” and “Wasted Time.” Longtime fans did get one blast from the past with “Where The Blacktop Ends.”
Who better to close out four days and nights of music in Nashville than Luke Bryan? The reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year put on a show worthy of the title. Bryan had the stadium fired up, breaking out his signature purr and the all moves he’s known for. On this night though, he had something else to prove. “I get known for being the guy who shakes his butt…”, he began, before jokingly trying to show that he was also the best guitar player in Nashville. Meanwhile Keith Urban snuck back onto the stage to challenge that claim. It’s not often that these two share a stage, and that’s a shame. The pair covered snippets of Collective Soul’s “Shine” and Brooks & Dunn’s “Hillbilly Deluxe” before a rousing rendition of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band classic “Fishin’ In The Dark.”
Bryan also took time out to reflect on the events in Orlando, pausing during “Drink A Beer” and leading a moment of silence in respect for those affected by the tragedy.
With fireworks erupting in the midnight sky, CMA Music Festival 2016 came to a close. We’ll all have the chance to relive the highlights when CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock airs August 3rd on ABC. Tickets for next year’s festival will go on sale July 11. See you there?