Carrie Underwood made her triumphant return to CMA Fest on Friday evening (June 8) for a powerful set that will be talked about in years to come. The singer’s performance captivated all in attendance at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium thanks to her jaw-dropping vocals and engaging live show.
A seasoned entertainer, Underwood took the audience of country music fans on a journey throughout her seven-song set. Donning an emerald green romper and silver booties, she shimmered from the cheap seats and her vocal power was undeniable on every song she sang. Underwood kicked off her memorable set with “Church Bells,” where it was immediately obvious fans were in for a very special night of music.
“We are so glad to be here this evening, and even more glad that you guys are here this evening,” Underwood said before launching into fan favorite “Last Name.” “So let’s keep this party going, shall we?”
Underwood’s set spanned her massive catalog of No. 1 hits and had fans on their feet and singing along word for word. On “Wasted” she’d head to the lower stage where she’d shake festivalgoers’ hands in the photo coral while on “Dirty Laundry” she showed her humor.
“We’re gonna have to change the words of this next song I think. It’s called ‘Dirty Laundry’ but we might need to sing ‘Sweaty Laundry.’ Mom joke,” she quipped.
“Blown Away” and “Before He Cheats” further cemented Underwood’s star power but it was new single “Cry Pretty” that showcased the singer’s status as a deserving recipient of every Entertainer of the Year award the industry could bestow. With notes that showcased her ability at vocal gymnastics, she had the stadium crowd screaming as she perfectly hit each and every one.
While Underwood stole the evening, she wasn’t the only powerhouse vocalist on the lineup. Luke Combs impressed with his hit-heavy set and booming vocals. His performance alternated from the clever breakup songs with “Beer Never Broke My Heart” and “When It Rains It Pours” to the more sentimental ballads including “She Got the Best of Me” and “One Number Away.” While “Honky Tonk Highway” showcased his love for ’90s country, it was on his first No. 1 hit “Hurricane” that left a lasting mark.
“When I started writing songs seven years ago, I never imagined I would be up here. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world getting to stand on this stage at Nissan Stadium,” he said before closing his set.
Despite technical difficulties at the start of his set, Blake Shelton powered through his performance with songs that showcased his versatile catalog and appreciation for classic country music. He also shared with the audience that he was celebrating that evening after receiving two 2018 CMT Music Awards earlier in the week. His set included his previous No. 1 hits “I’ll Name the Dogs,” “Boys ‘Round Here” and “Austin,” as well as current single “I Lived It.”
“I want to play y’all a song that, man, I don’t know at the end of the day if this song is going to make it or not, but I wanted to put this thing out because it reminded me of what it was like growing up as a kid back in the ’80s,” he said of “I Lived It.”
While Shelton’s set was heavy on the sentimental songs, Old Dominion kicked the energy back up a notch with their feel-good tracks. Making the most of their timeslot on the main stage, Old Dominion powered through back-to-back hits with “Written In the Sand,” “No Such Thing As a Broken Heart,” “Break Up with Him” and “Snapback.”
Prefacing “No Such Thing As a Broken Heart,” frontman Matthew Ramsey said stadium shows were the reason they penned the song. “We could not be prouder to be standing here tonight with you,” frontman Matthew Ramsey said mid-set. “Let’s have a big sing-along. That’s why we wrote this song.”
The crowd more than obliged as the Ramsey held his microphone out to the audience of 60,000 fans who belted the song’s lyrics.
Additional highlights throughout the evening included Brett Young’s set of numerous chart toppers including “Sleep Without You,” “Like I Loved You,” and the powerful “In Case You Didn’t Know.” Prefacing his performance of new single, “Mercy,” he admitted that it’s his favorite song on his debut album and that he loves that it makes people cry.
Following Young’s set, third and fourth grade students in the Andrew Jackson Elementary Eagle Honor Choir took the Nissan Stadium stage for a striking performance. The students, based in Nashville, sang their rousing rendition of “This Is Me” from the film The Greatest Showman for the stadium crowd. The proceeds from CMA Fest go to helping provide music education in schools and the choir showcased the power that music can have in a child’s life.
CMA Fest 2018 runs through Sunday, June 10, in Nashville.