The mood in Nashville is electric. With CMA Fest underway and the Predators returning on Sunday for game six of the Stanley Cup, Music City is primed to party.
The supercharged atmosphere of the past few days made the perfect setting for Garth Brooks to throw a surprise set at the first night of Nissan Stadium shows. While Brooks set was definitely the highlight, the evening was stacked with great performances that just got better and better as the night went on.
CMA Fest is the Super Bowl of country music, and the Nissan Stadium shows are prime time. Here’s a recap of the highlights from night one.
Rogers opened up the evening, but was in noticeably rough shape throughout his set. He had a tough time singing throughout the set. But the audience was happy to see him, and helped him out. Rogers missed a verse of “The Gambler,” but the crowd picked up the chorus and helped him carry it out. Linda Davis also joined Rogers onstage for a few songs.
It takes a special presence to fire up a stadium, and Eldredge has it in spades. Eldredge relished the massive size of the audience and delivered a high-energy set of his hits. He talked briefly about singing on the other side of the Cumberland River to 10 people during his early CMA Fest, now addressing a crowd of 60,000.
Swindell had an ear-to-ear smile that almost broke the big screen. It was cathartic to watch the young star soak in the moment. He opened up with “Not Worth the Whiskey,” which immediately had the crowd singing along. With a nod to his ex not being worth the swill, Swindell asked the crowd to help belt out the chorus. “I bet she heard that!” he said with another big smile. The highlight was an emotional Swindell singing “You Should Be Here” to a sea of phone lights across the stadium.
Nobody in the audience saw this one coming. The country legend gave a brief, yet powerhouse set of fan favorites. Brooks is the undisputed modern champion of arena shows, and if anyone can get 60,000-plus people to sing-a-long in unison, it’s him. The highlight was this moment during “Friends in Low Places.”
Bentley is a CMA Fest veteran at this point. He’s played this stage many times and said he still looks forward to the stadium set all year long. Overall it was a solid performance, but nothing stood out as memorable.
Lambert’s performance of “Automatic” had the mood at en even pace with everyone singing along. When the song ended, you could see Lambert was deeply moved in the moment. Having that connection between fan and artist on such a huge stage is one of the best parts about music.
Modern country’s top star closed out the night with a top-notch performance. With his signature swagger, Bryan had Nissan Stadium singing the words to every song and dancing with him. Bryan is in his natural habitat at big shows like this one.