Nashville is the place to be for country music fans this week and the third night of 2017 CMA Fest kicked things into high gear at Nissan Stadium with a four-hour concert that featured Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Lady Antebellum, Old Dominion, Chris Young, Maren Morris and John Anderson. Saturday night (June 10), proved to be a memorable one for duets, too, as Morris joined Rhett for their latest single, “Craving You,” while Cassadee Pope surprised the crowd during Young’s set for their Grammy-nominated “Think of You.” The evening served as a thank you to country fans as each artist shared their gratitude for those in attendance.
“We love you guys,” Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard told the thousands of country fans at Nissan Stadium during their set. “CMA week has become something super special to BK and I because it’s all about you guys. It’s all about the fans, it’s all about the people who make our dreams come true and allow us to do what we love. Thank you for believing in country music and believing in something that’s a little bit different and a little bit out of the box, for believing in two guys that want to travel the world and play music. We love y’all.”
The duo’s high-energy set had them playing many of their massive hits including “Cruise,” “Anything Goes,” “This Is How We Roll,” “May We All” and “God, Your Mama, And Me.” During their performance FGL got nostalgic, with Brian Kelley recalling that not long ago they were sneaking into Nissan Stadium to watch the country acts on the main stage and now they’re closing out the night.
“If you have a dream and you feel like it’s impossible and it’s too big to ever come true, believe,” Hubbard advised. “Keep chasing your dream, keep doing what you want to do. We’re living proof that everything is possible, I promise you guys that.”
None of the artists performing at CMA Fest are paid. Instead, that money goes towards music education. It’s a cause close to Kelley and Hubbard’s hearts, especially now that Hubbard has his first child on the way.
“Speaking of kids, I just gotta brag for a second. Me and my wife Hayley just found out we’re going to have a little boy. I couldn’t be more excited,” Hubbard gushed. “We would not be here tonight without the love of a woman and it’s something we don’t take for granted. We’ve got two of the most beautiful, amazing wives in the world that keep us humble, that keep us motivated and keep us creative and keep us out here with you guys doing what we love.”
He then asked the crowd to join them in singing their love song, “H.O.L.Y.” The audience obliged and the stadium was lit up in cell phone lights as Hubbard played piano and Kelley sat beside him on a stool as the two sang their previous No. 1 hit.
Rhett took the stage shortly before 11 p.m. and had the most energetic set of the evening. All smiles, the singer was in his element and could be found continually dancing throughout his performance of upbeat numbers like the throwback “Crash and Burn,” beat-heavy “T-Shirt” and saxophone-fused “Vacation.”
“Thank you so much fans, for traveling all across the world to come here tonight,” he said at the close of his set. “God bless country music.”
Highlights throughout Saturday evening included Lady Antebellum’s performance which was heavy in new material from their album Heart Break, which dropped on June 9. Complete with a horn section, the trio’s vigor was contagious on songs like “Downtown,” current single “You Look Good” and poignant title track “Heart Break.” Their harmonies soared on their breakthrough hit “Need You Now,” which had the entire stadium singing along.
Both Morris and Young showcased their vocal power throughout the entirety of their sets. While Morris shared her fun side and swagger on tracks like “Sugar,” “80s Mercedes” and “Rich,” she also struck a chord on her powerful new single, “I Could Use a Love Song.”
“I just released this song to country radio,” she told the audience. “It’s a very true story. It’s about feeling a little cynical when your heart’s broken and just wanting to hear that song that makes you feel like love is still out there.”
She closed her set with her breakthrough hit, “My Church,” and thanked country fans for their support on the song. She recalled sharing the stadium stage last year at CMA Fest with Rascal Flatts when they brought her out to sing the song.
“I was pretty impressed at how many people in this crowd knew the words then,” she recalled. “My life has changed because this song has kicked the door in for my career. Thank you for being there for it. Nashville, I’m gonna take you to church on this last one.”
Young, meanwhile, played several of his No. 1 hits including “Think of You,” “Sober Saturday Night,” “I’m Comin’ Over” and fan favorite, “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song).” He, too, thanked country fans for their constant support over the years, saying that it was because of them that Vince Gill didn’t hang up the phone when he called to ask him to collaborate on “Sober Saturday Night.” “I love you guys to death,” he said before exiting the stage.
Old Dominion had the shortest set of the evening, playing for a mere six minutes, but the band utilized their time wisely with a mashup of their biggest hits. Set opener “Snapback” segued into “Break Up with Him” and their new single, “No Such Thing As a Broken Heart” before closing with the nostalgic “Song For Another Time.”
CMA Fest 2017 runs through Sunday, June 11, in Nashville.