A Night of Surprises at LP Field

Evan Farmer must have felt some déjà vu when he hosted CMA Fest’s evening concert at LP Field on June 11.

Along with Broadway icon and Country newcomer Kristin Chenoweth, Farmer welcomed superstar performers to the stage, each of whom has had at least one music video on his GAC Top 20 Countdown.

After a performance of the national anthem in four-part harmony by Dailey & Vincent, Chris Young opened the concert with his hit single, “Gettin’ You Home.”

Young played a radio-friendly set — “Voices,” “Save Water, Drink Beer,” and the fastest rising single of his career, “Tomorrow,” which sold 30,000 downloads in its first week.

As Young left the stage, the Jumbotrons lit up with a short clip of a record-setting event that took place earlier that afternoon in Centennial Park.  Gildan unfurled the world’s largest T-shirt, which was 281.3 feet long and 180.9 feet wide.

“American Idol” veteran Danny Gokey, who hosted the event, told the audience this T-shirt was bigger than 12,000 normal ones, and the director of Nashville Metro Public Schools, Dr. Jesse Register, pledged to donate the same amount to children in need.

The spirit of giving continued when Chenoweth and Farmer announced that the next performers had been raising money for tornado relief with Country duo Sugarland.

“That really means a lot to those of us who were affected,” said Chenoweth, a native of Broken Arrow, Okla.

With that, Little Big Town — Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet — took the stage, opening with “A Little More You.” After a countrified cover of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and the more mellow “Bring It On Home,” the band launched into a recognizable guitar riff.

The audience jumped to their feet and clapped to the beat as Fairchild led the group in their Billboard Top 10 single “Little White Church.” They closed their set with “Boondocks,” and the audience sang the chorus back, still cheering when Chenoweth and Farmer returned to the stage.

Chenoweth confessed to having a crush on the next performer, welcoming Country legend Clint Black to the stage.

Black led his short acoustic set with a new song, “I’ve Been Better, I’ve Been Worse.” He sang “Galaxy Song” and “Something That We Do” before turning the stage over to another artist known for his good looks and deep baritone.

Josh Turner opened with his No. 1 Billboard Country single, “Would You Go With Me.” Women cheered when Turner began “Your Man,” but the entire audience screamed and flashbulbs lit up the night like fireflies when “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery joined Turner partway through the song.

“Mr. Scotty McCreery, everybody,” Turner said. “Congratulations to him for winning this season’s ‘American Idol.’ I love it because people are continuing to wave the Country Music flag out in Hollywood, and that’s why we’re all here this week, right?”

The fans shouted their affirmation, and Turner closed his set with “Why Don’t We Just Dance.” Audience members seemed to take his advice, dancing in their seats or grabbing partners to dance in the aisles.

As backstage crews hustled to set up for the next act, fans watched the Jumbotron to see if their tweets with the hashtag #CMAfest would appear. Before long, Chenoweth reappeared to introduce a surprise performance.

“There’s two things I’ve always wanted to be: big and rich. Never gonna happen, but here you go, ladies and gentlemen—Big & Rich!” said Chenoweth. Big Kenny and John Rich gave a rocking rendition of “Fake I.D.,” the song they wrote for the upcoming remake of ‘80s classic movie “Footloose.”

Rich introduced Trace Adkins, who sauntered onto the stage with his trademark swagger and grabbed the microphone to sing “Whoop a Man’s Ass.” His high-energy songs got the audience volleying beach balls around the stadium, but he took a serious moment to thank the crowd for their support in light of his recent home fire on June 4.

“But please take that feeling of generosity and point it somewhere else. Give it to the Red Cross or somebody like that because we’re okay,” Adkins said, eliciting cheers and applause from the crowd before he sang his new single, “Just Fishin’.”

He followed with an old favorite, 2006 hit “Ladies Love Country Boys,” and the ladies in the audience sang along at all the right parts.

“Something else for the ladies in the crowd—we’re gonna do a sensitive love song for you,” Adkins teased as drums led into his humorously suggestive “Brown Chicken, Brown Cow.”

“Two love songs in a row,” Adkins promised, but this time the crowd wasn’t buying it, cheering as the guitars ramped up into his crossover hit “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” Adkins held the microphone out to the audience on the last chorus as they yelled back “Whoo-wee, shut my mouth, slap your grandma!”

“I just heard every grandma in town say ‘Shame on you’ for saying that,” Adkins said, leaving the audience laughing and dancing as he walked off stage.

The audience actually did hear two love songs after Adkins left, courtesy of Thompson Square. Keifer and Shawna Thompson sang “I Got You” and their first No. 1 hit, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not.”

Five-time CMA Award winner Martina McBride was up next, leading with several up-tempo, girl-power songs, but her set turned sentimental when she debuted a new song from her upcoming album slated for release in October, “Love You Through It.”

“I feel like it’s going to go out into the world and lift some people up,” McBride said before singing about supporting a friend going through a rough patch in life. Her newest single, “Teenage Daughters,” seemed to lift up a few mothers in the crowd, many of whom had their arms around their own teenage daughters as they swayed to the beat.

“Well, a few weeks ago, I was told there was a girl on ‘American Idol’ who sang my song,” she continued, causing the audience to scream in anticipation.

After seeing the video on YouTube, McBride was thoroughly impressed. “I thought, ‘I wish I could get her here to sing it with me.’ So please welcome Miss Lauren Alaina!” McBride said, once again sending the stadium into a flashbulb frenzy as the 16-year-old “American Idol” runner-up joined her to sing “Anyway.”

“American Idol” launched Alaina’s budding career, and McBride followed up with a song that launched her own: “A Broken Wing.” The audience cheered and applauded for nearly two minutes after McBride finished the song, and McBride took some time to compose herself before speaking again.

“I wish you all could know what that feels like to me,” she said. “I have been so inspired by you guys this week … I love y’all so much, and you’re the reason that I do this.”

After her last song, McBride took a few laps around the stage, waving and curtsying to fans on every side of the arena.
“Um, wow. That just happened,” Farmer said, clearly at a loss for words. “That was unbelievable, y’all!”

McBride is a tough act to follow, but Rascal Flatts was up to the challenge. Band members Gary LeVox, Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus popped up in the middle of the crowd to record the introduction for ABC’s annual television special, “CMA Fest: Country Music’s Night To Rock.”

Rascal Flatts remained in the audience to sing “I Won’t Let Go,” encouraging the audience to turn on the lights they’d received at the beginning of the concert. The stadium and the starry sky suddenly became one, with nearly everyone in the audience swaying their lights back and forth.

The band returned to the stage to sing the fan tribute “Here’s To You” and followed with one of the longest sets for a closing act at CMA Fest 2011 yet, a 45-minute parade of their greatest hits, closing with a mashup of “Long Time,” “Free Ride” and Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son.”

The fans continued to cheer and fireworks lit up the sky long after Rascal Flatts had left, closing yet another memorable evening in Nashville.


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