The people of the world came together on Monday (June 2) to (unofficially) kick of the 2014 CMA Music Festival. Featuring artists of all walks of life, music became the centerpiece of the CMA GlobaLive Showcase, which included artists from Australia, New Zealander, Canada, the UK and Sweden. As the crowd trickled in, the diversity of country music lovers was a talking point throughout the evening, emceed by singer-songwriter David Bradley (who also played a rousing set late in the evening).
Of course, several standout musicians from this side of the Atlantic played throughout the night, proving to possess the skills needed to captivate the crowd with just a voice and a guitar. One of those truly remarkable performers was the Canadian born-and-bred Jaida Dreyer, who has made quite the name for herself through her work with ABC's hit drama Nashville. In the past several months, the singer has had three songs featured on the show, "Dreams," "This Town" and "Tell Me."
Dreyer's set, the second of the night, was completely rooted in tradition, inspired by a mix Lorretta Lynn and Stevie Nicks. In a lovely flowing top, she stood at her mic and delivered the songs with poise and grit. In addition to performing album tracks from her 2013-released debut album I Am Jaida Dreyer, the singer premiered a brand new tune called "Go With All Your Heart," which she wrote before heading out to LA for three months.
Of course, the night launched with a performance by Australian husband-wife duo O'Shea. Delivering a soulful set of such hits as "Red Lights And Last Names," "Smash" and others, lifted from their two discs Mr. and Mrs. and One + One. As they grooved out to their Thompson Square-esque catalog, they never missed a beatt, as they attempted to get the crowd going. While their material might have been unknown to the crowd, the talented duo walked away with at least two dozen new fans, including this writer.
Following Dreyer, the lineup was a mish-mosh of a vast collection of influences, from the redheaded Wes Mack (he plowed through several rock-infused jams, like "Our Soundtrack" and "Duet," a collaboration with Carly McKillip) and the shy Cameron Scott (one of the evening's finest musicians) to Tamara Stewart (a sassy, feisty performer) and David Park (a Brad Pitt-lookalike circa Interview With The Vampire), whose sound was a bizarre mix of hair metal and country.
The night reached an entirely new level when Kira Isabella, who has toured with Carrie Underwood on The Blown Away Tour, took the stage. She might be a pint-sized beauty, but her voice soared to dizzying heights and sweltered to the low valleys. While she proved herself on her uptempo rompers, it was her debut U.S. single "Quarterback" that earned her a roaring applause at its finish. The song digs into date rape in a bold way; it's not every day that a singer has the guts to tackle such a harrowing topic. Isabella also shone bright on a tender cover of Bruno Mars' "If I Was Your Man."
Jared Potter came next, sampling a more mature Hunter Hayes-like sound. He charged the stage like a full can of Red Bull. His "Under The Sun" was certainly one of the high points of the entire show. Duo One More Girl quickly followed, performing such songs as "Maybe" and "Drunk Heart," their style reminiscent of early Taylor Swift. Later in their performance, they pulled back the reigns for an emotional "Speak of the Devil," a tune that makes singer Carly McKillip "cry," she told the crowd.
Brother-sister duo Kaylens Rain, hailing from Sydney, Australia, found their footing quite quickly on the stage. Coincedentally, the singers' debut album is titled Found, from which they performed many of their best songs. Few family pairings are as magical as these two. Big things are headed their way.
Next came a sonic shift to the night, as Dallas Smith took the stage with his rock-based country stamp. As the former lead singer of rock band Default, his showmanship and gritty vocals were on full display. Performing his Sirius XM The Highway hit song "Tippin' Point," Smith had the crowd crowing like a gaggle of pre-teen girls. Hours before he even took the stage, his fans were out in full force, screaming their lungs out for his set, which also included a high-powered cover of Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive."
The energy continued to burst into the night sky with Emerson Drive. 19 years into their career, the group still possessed the thing that makes them so special: great voices. Their set included their first ever No. 1 single "Moments," "Fall Into Me" and "I Should Be Sleeping," much to the crowd's satisfaction. Everyone around me sang the lyrics to every single song. It was a surreal experience. The group might have fallen out of favor at radio, but they haven't disappointed their fans.