As fans trickled out of Nissan Stadium by the thousands on night four of 2019 CMA Fest on Sunday (June 9), they left with their ears ringing and the spirit of country music buzzing in their souls.
If there was a biggest spirit award in country music, Chris Janson would win it handedly. He proved this during his first time playing Nissan Stadium for CMA Fest, an opportunity he didn’t take lightly. Janson came out firing all cylinders with the rowdy “Redneck Life” before raising a toast to happiness and health with “Fix a Drink.” He delivered all the “Good Vibes” and then took to the keyboard for a cover of Billy Joel’s “Mr. Piano Man,” a harmonica wrapped around the multi-instrumentalists neck as he performed the poignant “Drunk Girl.” His set culminated in a wild performance of “Truck Yeah,” the Tim McGraw cut Janson co-wrote with LOCASH and Danny Myrick, which ended with Janson head banging his way through a drum solo, enticing fans to sing along to his set closer and breakthrough hit, “Buy Me a Boat.” The crowd cheered with approval when the evening’s emcee Storme Warren of SiriusXM’s The Highway asked if he has Entertainer of the Year potential.
Meanwhile, Old Dominion brought a more subdued vibe to the stage, creating an atmosphere that felt light and breezy with “Snapback” and “Hotel Key.” It was clear the five-member band held the opportunity to play the massive stage in reverence, taking out their ear monitors to soak in the moment of hearing a stadium full of people singing “you gotta love like there’s no such thing as a broken heart” before leaving on a high note with “Make it Sweet.”
Fans got to see a variety of facets of Maren Morris’ artistry as she maintained a steady presence throughout her confident set. She came out calm, cool and collected with “The Bones” before busting out the attitude for a sassy “Rich” performance. Her maturity as both an artist and songwriter shone through on “Girl.” Armed with an electric guitar, she confidently delivered the empowering anthem where men and women alike threw their arms around each other, immersing themselves in the powerful lyrics. She continued to share inspiring messages by teaming up with surprise guest Brandi Carlile for their duet “Common,” making for a special moment as they stood face to face, their voices layering over one another as they delivered the important message. Morris’ set was bound together by two of her prominent career hits. All she needed to do was sing the line “can I get a hallelujah” for the crowd to roar with excitement at the start of “My Church,” which made for the loudest sing-a-long during all four nights at Nissan Stadium, her pop smash and closing number “The Middle” serving as a close second.
In just 30 minutes, Keith Urban proved why he was named Entertainer of the Year at both the CMA Awards and ACM Awards. Hitting the stage with the kind of positive energy that instantly uplifts one’s mood, he let his introductory guitar solo speak for him as he kicked off his set with “Never Comin’ Down,” sending a surge of energy through the crowd that he maintained by turning “The Fighter” into a live duet where the audience took on Carrie Underwood’s part. After suave performances of his current single “We Were” and “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” Urban created the most mystifying moment of the night. As the singer turned the stadium into a chorus for his beloved hit “Somebody Like You,” he kept bringing their voices lower and lower until they were barely above a whisper, requesting that all the stadium lights be cut off including his own spotlight. When he asked the crowd how they would see the band in the event of a power outage, they immediately knew what he going for – that’s when a stadium full of people collectively pulled out their phones and lit them up while Urban sang “I wanna love somebody like you” with just his voice, the crowd echoing it back to him in a magical moment. He finished the song with the full band that propelled him into “Wasted Time.” As an artist who thrives on fan engagement, Urban didn’t even attempt to make it to the in-the-round style stage that was in the center of the floor – he instead took his guitar and microphone stand directly into the audience, surrounded by a pool of fans so close he could barely be seen on the jumbotron, ending his set not only with the pure sound of music, but heartfelt words of appreciation as he thanked fans for bringing their “spirits” and “hearts” to Nashville.
Like Urban, Luke Bryan used full throttle power and energy to bring the entire festival to a close. From the moment he took the stage with “Country Girl (Shake it For Me),” the mood didn’t drop once, as Bryan took fans to a transcendental level that they didn’t come down from even after the show concluded. Keeping the tempo up with “Rain is a Good Thing” and “Knockin’ Boots,” the superstar pointed to the clock that read 12:02, signifying the official start to Monday morning. “If you party all night into the morning, that’s what makes you country at this CMA Fest,” he proclaimed, seguing into the celebratory “What Makes You Country.” He then turned the city venue into a remote country party with “Kick the Dust Up,” setting the stage for a string of high-energy performances dripping in country pride with “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset,” “That’s My Kinda Night” and “Huntin,’ Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day.” “This is your song tonight,” he said as the clock began approaching 12:30 and he launched into one of many fan-favorite hits, “Play it Again.” As the country superstar brought the festival to a rousing end with a crowd-pleasing cover of Bon Jovi’s iconic “Livin’ on a Prayer,” fans carried the words with them out of the stadium and over the pedestrian bridge, symbolizing the lasting impact of CMA Fest.
Re-live the four nights of CMA Fest 2019 when the TV special airs on ABC on August 4 at 8/7c. Tickets for CMA Fest 2020 go on sale beginning July 12.