The last night of CMAFest is always bittersweet. You are hot, exhausted, totally sleep deprived, sun burned but yet you don’t want it to be over because you’ve had so much fun. This is the way we feel every year and this year was no exception.
Unfortunately, this year the weekend was laden with bad news. On Friday night in Orlando, Florida Christina Grimmie had been shot and killed at a meet and greet after her show. On Saturday night a club in Orlando had been the scene of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history where 49 people plus the gunman had died. Nashville had made plans on Sunday to hold a vigil for the Orlando victims at 8:00.
When we got to the stadium about 7:15 there was lots of available parking which was unusual, not near as many people tailgating. As we walked into the stadium the amount of empty seats were crazy. We wondered if it had to do with the shooting, was people scared to be in this type of setting. Had people just gone home early, were they going to the vigil? We weren’t sure, but it was really odd.
Ray Stevens was on task to do the National Anthem for the night. He first said the Pledge of Allegiance then did the “Star Spangled Banner”. He had three ladies singing back up and it all sounded great.
Next on the schedule was the band, Exile. This band started in 1963 in Richmond, Kentucky. The first song they did was “Give Me One More Chance”, a 1984 hit for them. Several around us was standing up, singing along. The band still sounds really good. They did a song called “People Get Ready” and ended their 5 song set with “Kiss You All Over”.
Little Big Town came out to “Pontoon” and then did a little “Day Drinking”. “Stay All Night” was next before the band along with Pharrell and a gospel choir dedicated “Miracle” to the Orlando victims and their families. “Girl Crush” and “Boondocks” were the last two songs of their set.
The hosts for the ABC Special Country’s Night to Rock is Thomas Rhett and Brett Eldredge. Thomas was next on the schedule to perform so he and Brett came out together and did Thomas’ single “Vacation”. Brett left the stage when the song was over and Thomas did “Make Me Wanna”, “Give Me Some of That”, “Die A Happy Man”, “T-shirt” and finished his set with “Crash and Burn”
Following TR’s performance, HGtv’s The Property Brothers introduced Brett Eldredge back to the stage. He started out his set with “Lose My Mind” then it was “Beat of the Music”, “Wanna Be That Song”, “Drunk on Your Love” and “Don’t Ya”. At this point Thomas Rhett came back out to sing “You Can’t Stop Me”.
Next was the one I was probably most excited for on Sunday night….Keith Urban. He started out playing banjo on “Gone Tomorrow, Here Today” from his Ripcord CD. Next he took us back a few years to “Where the Blacktop Ends” to “Somewhere in My Car” and “Break on Me”. Keith was chatty asking the 60,000 fans if they’d had a good week. He asked how many were Nashvillians? From Smyrna? From Mt. Juliet? That got roars of laughter. He said he had several request for the next song from Ripcord “Blue Ain’t Your Color”. Then with bass guitar in hand he did “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”. Keith introduced his band then did a little bit of “No Woman, No Cry” and “Jack and Diane”. He finished up his set playing banjo on “Wasted Time”. I’ve become a huge Keith Urban fan just from seeing him at CMAFest. I love watching him play guitar as much as hearing him sing. We have tickets to see him at Bridgestone in a few months and I can’t wait to see a whole set.
Had waited four days to see Luke Bryan and it was finally time!! Music started and Luke was out to “That’s My Kinda Night”. Most of the stadium had been standing for Keith and they were still standing for Luke. “Play It Again” was next and then he did “Move” followed by “Strip It Down”.
“Drink A Beer” which is always emotional was next. Towards the end of that song Luke stopped and said “Something has been real heavy on my heart tonight. I know that you guys have been dealing with a lot of the same things I’ve been dealing with. I want us to take a brief moment of silence and think about all those families that have been affected in Orlando, Florida, in what happened in our great nation last night. Let’s take a moment of silence and pray for all the families and everybody affected.” Nissan Stadium immediately went silent. It was kinda crazy how quiet it was. Usually you have those obnoxious people who have to make some kind of noise especially with that many people, but no, no noise.
After the moment of silence he asked that they cut the lights and just everyone light up their cell phones as he continued singing “Drink A Beer”.
“Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ ” every day was next. At the end of it Luke says he thinks he should be known for his guitar playing because he’s such a good guitar player and he’s going to show us and see what we think. He starts playing and while he’s playing Keith Urban walks out. Luke and Keith just had a good ol jam session. They did some of “Fishin’ in the Dark” and “Hillbilly Deluxe”. It was really cool. I wish they could have just kept going.
All good things must come to an end though. The music started and everyone knew it was time for “Country Girl Shake it for Me”. Luke shook it a little but not like he used to. I said I felt sorry for everyone who didn’t see him shake it to this song years ago cause they are missing out. It was the perfect end to a perfect, but very hot CMAFest week.