Blake Shelton, Eric Church & More Bring the Hits to Night Two of CMA Fest 2017

On Friday evening (June 9), country fans witnessed Blake Shelton, Eric Church, Kelsea Ballerini, Sam Hunt, Rascal Flatts, Trace Adkins, Dustin Lynch and Brett Young all under one roof during the 2017 CMA Music Festival’s nightly concert lineup at Nissan Stadium. Part of the four-day festival that takes place in Nashville from June 8 – 11, the evening was filled with radio hits that spanned each artist’s catalog and had the crowd of over 50,000 singing along.

The comedian of the evening, Shelton closed the show playing a 25-minute set that poked fun at those in the crowd as well as himself. At the start of his set he warned the audience that he needed some participation, asking them time and time again to sing along if they knew the words to his songs.

“I’ve been coming to CMA Fest since 1994 and I look out here now and I see people literally all ages from all over the world,” he marveled. “Don’t you love country music? I actually see a bunch of people out here that — I’m just gonna say it, there are some good looking girls out here. Then I see a bunch of guys with some of these girls and I’m going, ‘What the hell is she with him for?’ and I know how that feels. I’ve got a song for you guys.”

He then segued into his previous hit, “A Guy With a Girl,” before bringing out Adkins for the energetic “Hillbilly Bone.” Additional highlights throughout his set included the beat heavy “Boys ‘Round Here” and the poignant “Austin,” Shelton’s first single that went to No. 1. He, and many of the artists performing that night, continually thanked the fans for their support over the years.

“It’s the luckiest thing on earth to get out here and sing for y’all,” he said. “When you get to do it, it makes you nervous because you start to think, ‘God, what am I going to do?’ I want people to at least remember me.”

Rest assured Shelton, the fans at Nissan Stadium will certainly remember your performance as well as Church’s, who took the stage shortly before 11 p.m. The Chief played an impassioned set, singing hit after hit to a crowd that gave him as much energy as he shared with them.

“We’re about to turn this place into the biggest bar on earth,” he said before segueing into the ever appropriate “Jack Daniels.”

“Smoke A Little Smoke” followed suit as did “Before She Does.” Whether it was the upbeat barn burners like set highlight “Chattanooga Lucy” or the slower ballads like “Round Here Buzz” and “Give Me Back My Hometown,” Church commanded the stage, often shaking his fists in the air and inciting screams from the audience.

Kelsea Ballerini; Photo by Katie Kauss/Sounds Like Nashville

Kelsea Ballerini; Photo by Katie Kauss/Sounds Like Nashville

Ballerini also captivated with a set filled with her previous No. 1 hits including set opener “Love Me Like You Mean It,” “Dibs” and “Peter Pan.” Her success story had the dreamers in the crowd optimistic of a country career, too.

“Four years ago, I sat all the way up there and my favorite moment was always when an artist came out and suddenly 50,000 people felt like a living room,” she said, pointing to the nosebleed seats. “I thought, since I get to be on this stage, we can make a 50,000 person living room and I can play you a new song tonight. What do you think?”

The crowd roared in approval and the singer debuted a slow ballad called “I Hate Love Songs” where she sang about hating Shakespeare, Ryan Gosling and roses that die in a week. “I hate love songs, yeah I really do, I hate love songs, but I love you,” she sang softly.

Sam Hunt; Photo by Katie Kauss/Sounds Like Nashville

Sam Hunt; Photo by Katie Kauss/Sounds Like Nashville

Hunt took the stage before Ballerini where he showed off his swagger and brought his own “House Party” to Nissan Stadium. While the singer admitted to be close to losing his voice, you’d never tell from his animated performance which had him running around the stage belting monster jams like “Body Like a Back Road,” “Break Up In A Small Town” and “Take Your Time.” On “Ex To See,” a track featured on his debut album Montevallo, the song was transformed with new instrumentals giving it more of an EDM feel that would no doubt fill a dance floor.

Before closing his set, Hunt thanked fans for singing along and “taking up the slack for me” while his voice was going, adding that Nashville now feels like home after living in Music City for eight years. Friday marked his third time performing on the Nissan Stadium stage at CMA Fest and he shared his gratitude to fans for coming out and singing along.

While Hunt may be a veteran on the main stage, both Dustin Lynch and Brett Young had their Nissan Stadium debut when they each performed their current single. Minutes after the music video for Lynch’s “Small Town Boy” premiered, he sang the song live from a small stage set up in the middle of the stadium floor. Dressed in a red leather jacket, jeans and cowboy hat, Lynch’s spirited performance showcased why he should be a contender for a set on the big stage. Young, meanwhile, shared his beautiful ballad “In Case You Didn’t Know” to thousands of fans in attendance also providing a solid case to be asked back to the stage next year.

Earlier in the night, both Rascal Flatts and Adkins’ sets were heavy with fan favorites. While the country trio kicked off their performance with the timely “Summer Nights,” they had the audience on their feet for the memorable “Fast Cars and Freedom,” which highlighted Gary LeVox’s soaring vocals. Previous hits “Yours If You Want It” and “Life Is a Highway” also showed off Joe Don Rooney’s shredding skills. Adkins, meanwhile, mesmerized with his deep baritone. His set included the fun-filled “Ladies Love Country Boys,” “Chrome” and “Honky Ton Badonkadonk.”

CMA Fest 2017 runs through Sunday, June 11, in Nashville.