Day four of CMA Fest is just beginning, but we haven’t even hit peak party yet. Tonight, the Predators return to Nashville for a chance to stay alive in the Stanley Cup Finals. While that’s going on, CMA Fest will wrap up just across the river at Nissan Stadium. So, it’s safe to say things may get rowdy tonight. The locals I’ve talked to say they’ve never seen Nashville quite like this before.
As of Saturday night, the CMA Fest crowd was fatigued from sunburn and extended bouts of day drinking, but they seemed to find their second or third winds once the Nissan Stadium shows kicked off. The night three performances focused on the new stars of modern country music. All of them delivered solid performances. Here’s a recap of what you might have missed.
The “Straight Tequila Night” singer kicked off the festivities with a short set of his hits.
Maren Morris had all that swagger onstage. Her pipes are some of the best in the biz right now, and they filled every corner of the massive Nissan Stadium. She seemed quite taken aback by the size of the audience, and was noticeably choked up by seeing the entire stadium sing along to “My Church.” Watching the artists’ emotional reactions to the audience size and their participation is a cathartic experience as a fan.
Old Dominion only had time to squeeze in a brief medley set of their well-known singles, like “Snapback” and “Break Up With Him.” For a band that’s had a fairly short time in the limelight, it’s impressive that they get a slot on the mega stage. They did a great job, and clearly had a ton of fans in the crowd.
Confident, jovial and good natured. Chris Young puts on a tight show that fuses contemporary rock with country. The highlight was Young’s “Think Of You” duet with Cassadee Pope.
Lady Antebellum delighted with crowd pleasers like “Downtown” and “Need You Know” and new material off their latest album, Heart Break. The title track didn’t really connect, but their single “You Look Good” sounded incredible. The groove and robust brass section give a new shot of life into an already energized band. I hope Lady A continues to explore that funk/rock feel because it sounds so natural for them.
Holy crap, Thomas Rhett is a bonafide superstar now. He delivers a thoroughly entertaining show, and is starting to show a real command of the stage. His dance moves, however, leave a lot to be desired. Watching him attempt James Brown steps is a painfully awkward experience. But this cynic may have been the only one cringing, as he had the audience in the palm of his hand through it all. Highlights include his Maren Morris duet, “Craving You,” and the crowd engagement on “Vacation.”
Florida Georgia Line
Pop-country’s dynamic duo closed night three of CMA Fest with the biggest show yet. FGL is the Hollywood summer blockbuster of country music: they’re flashy, entertaining, bombastic, and crowd pleasing. I’ve made these guys the butt of jokes for years, but after watching them delight a football stadium full of screaming fans — and seeing an endless stream of fans queue up for their new bar on Broadway — I realize the joke’s on me.