On Wednesday (June 5), Country music fans flocked to Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville for the CMT Music Awards. As the answer to MTV's Video Music Awards, the show was jam packed with dirty puns, jabs at fellow artists and other jokes that didn't quite land with the crowd. Throughout the two and a half hour broadcast, screaming fans rallied behind their favorite artists, as they took the stage to perform their latest hits.
I had the pleasure of attending (my first awards show ever), so I went into the experience not knowing what to expect. I have to admit, there was a certain high that permeated the crowd and left me rather drained afterwards. I had always wanted to attend one of these shows (I mean, who hasn't right?) to see exactly how it all goes down and to see if there were any interesting interactions between the superstars during commericials and off camera. While the media section was quite a distance from the celebrity seating, I did catch a few cool moments.
First, a rundown of the show from my seat.
The opening number with Jason Aldean and Lenny Kravitz on "American Woman" was sensational. As the music kicked in and the light show blasted off, the crowd roared to life right away. It was clear Jason has a strong, loyal fan based, despite any personal problems he might have. The skit, featuring Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan, that followed was a real crowd pleasure. Laughter was like a tidal wave, as it moved and echoed around the arena.
With the show kicking off to a great start, the next skit with Jason and actress Kristen Bell wasn't as successful. Kristen wanted to rip into different artists, including Carrie, and it fell mostly flat. There was a bit of laughter on Carrie's part, and the crowd definitely reacted positively, but that was mostly in response to Carrie's facial expressions (which are always priceless at these type of events).
Kellie Pickler and Scotty McCreery were the first presenters of the night, and let's just say, the crowd's reaction was great. Can these two host next year? They have perfect chemistry and nothing is forced between them. The award for "Breakthrough Video of the Year" went to Florida Georgia Line and their ubiquitous "Cruise." Needless to say, the crowd absolutely adored Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley. Now there isn't any question about the success of these two. Country music fans hung on their every word (and later during the duo's closing performance with Nelly of their chart-topping smash).
Later, Kristen and Jason delivered another awkward skit about wanting to do a duet together. It didn't really go over that well, honestly. Was that supposed to be funny?
Miranda Lambert, introduced by Anna Sophia Robb and Brantley Gilbert, then took the stage for a rousing performance of "Mama's Broken Heart." The audience sang along to every. single. word. She's clearly a fan favorite as well (like there was ever any doubt).
The Avett Brothers then introduced Kacey Musgraves, who may or may not have been high during her performance (as speculation goes), and was well-recieved. As the singer-songwriter is still making a name for herself, her fan base is rapidly growing and delieved one of the best performances of the night. I will admit, her stage presences still needs work, but the girl is rather charming and a heck of a songwriter. (I still adore her, though).
Kristen then attempted to tell a Dog and Beth the Bounty Hunter joke, as the prompter went down. She didn't know the rest of the joke. The crowd laughed uncomforably. Dog and Beth presented CMT Performance Of The Year to Miranda for "Over You," at the 2012 Artists of the Year telecast. Cheers ensued.
Florida Georgia Line then took the stage (and once again, my eardrums were busted from the screams) to introduce Darius Rucker's performance of "Wagon Wheel." His performance was in my Top 3 of the night. The crowd sang along to every word. It's clear they adore him…or just love the song itself. He began his performance in the audience (of the celebrity box seats), high-fiving his fellow artists, before making his way to the stage. Lady Antebellum later joined him…much to the crowd's satisfaction.
Kree Harrison then sang the chorus of her single "All Cried Out," as they cut to commerical, and everyone in the arena got rather quiet…or stopped moving for a brief moment. I suppose most wanted to hear who this golden-voiced singer was (and rightfully so). Kree's voice was on-point and a great introduction to the listening public (albeit too brief).
Cut to: Hunter Hayes and Luke Bryan to perform their hits "I Want Crazy" and "Crash My Party," respectively. These two crooners also received their fair share of female screaming and whatnot. Who wouldn't right?!
Then, Taylor Swift performed "Red." Possible new single? Considering Billboard has labeled this song "Country," I'm guessing it will at some point. She sounded better than she usually does. I honestly dig this song. It's catchy and really got the crowd going. They love her, and thus, she isn't going anywhere for a while.
Larry the Cable Guy had a little bit with telling Carrie to stop calling him. Very well received by the crowd. Hilarious. Even Mike Fisher got in on the gag.
Keith Urban then performed his new single "Little Bit of Everything." The lyrics are middling at best, but the crowd was head-bobbing and clapping along, even if they didn't know it very well. The song might not be his best in his growing repertoire, but he is one awesome guitar player. So, that makes up for it.
Performing their "Goodbye Town," Lady Antebellum took the stage. They didn't get quite as big of a reaction as I expected them too. I'm not too surprised though. Their popularity has been waning for quite a while following lackluster radio success during the group's last album cycle. However, this song is good, and the crowd loved it.
After another Kristen skit regarding stealing one of Florida Georgia Line's buckles, Lenny presented "Female Video of the Year" to Miranda for "Mama's Broken Heart." Great song. Great video. The crowd chanted her name.
Little Big Town then delivered another stellar performance as they took on Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain," which was a nice change of pace for the show. Instead of performing a current single, it was great to see something different, something electric, something out of the box. Their performance was one of the best received of the night. Vocally, they were just as impressive as they've ever been. The arena was filled with screams and clapping (as if I expected anything else).
The Bacon Brothers and Dax Shepard presented "Group Video Of The Year" to Lady Antebellum for “Downtown.” No surprise there.
Jason performed "Night Train," and it was definitely one of his better vocals to-date. He is a great performer, who feeds off the energy of the crowd. They were giving him everything to work with.
After Miranda announced Blake Shelton as the winner of "Male Video of the Year" (duh), Rascal Flatts introduced Carrie's touching performance of "See You Again," featuring footage from the Oklahoma wreckage following the deadly tornadoes. It also included a full-on choir. The entire arena sang along, and once Carrie finished, the ENTIRE arena gave her the only standing ovation of the night. Incredible sight to see.
One of the better moments of the night came with Sheryl Crow and Kenny Rogers singing a bit of "Islands in the Stream." They should have just performed the whole song. I half expected the crowd to soar to their feet…but they might as well have. Then, the pair presented "Video of the Year" to Carrie for "Blown Away." Another great reaction from the audience.
After Jason and Kristen made up tabloid headlines based around the night's events, they introduced Florida Georgia Line's performance with Nelly of "Cruise." I've never seen such a crazy reaction to an artist before. The audience vaulted to their feet, filling the arena with blood-curdling screams, applause and, of course, drunken salutes (the girl in front of me was whipping her hair and arms throughout the second half of the show). It was a great way to end the day.
Overall, my experience was noteworthy and something I'll always remember. The crowd was charged and being around fans who love Country music as much as I do was incredible. While most of the skits dropped like lead balls into a sea of nonsense, Kristen did her best to buoy Jason's sometimes stiff presentation.
A few tidbits I noticed:
- Kimberly Perry and Carrie are great friends and chatted quite frequently throughout the show.
- Carrie and Taylor did not sit anywhere near each other (although a report indicates that Taylor hugged Carrie following her emotional "See You Again")
- You know those moments when newer artists perform as they cut to commercial? Yea, that's all they do. I was rather bored during commerical breaks, as nothing happened. Why not let those artists actually perform their whole song, even if the entire thing never makes it to TV?
- Miranda hugged Carrie as she accepted her award. It was the cutetst thing ever.
- It's weird seeing the celebrity section being on the side of the stage, and not out in front, as editing and camera work might lead you to believe.
- Cassadee Pope (who performed a clip of "Wasting All These Tears" as the show shifted to commercial) was also a favorite.
Note: Observations are based on actual crowd reaction in the arena.
Photo Credits: Getty Images / CMT