When a festival is held in Nashville, there’s always the likelihood that a special guest will take the stage. In last night’s case, three very special artists surprised the crowd at Nissan Stadium for night three of CMA Fest.
Both Blake Shelton and Chris Young had their duet partners on hand to perform tracks off their latest albums. While Shelton brought out The Oak Ridge Boys for their collaboration, “Doing It to Country Songs,” Young invited Cassadee Pope to share the spotlight with their three-week No. 1 song, “Think of You.” Meanwhile, Steven Tyler called out Martina McBride to assist on the 1993 Aerosmith hit, “Cryin.”
Throughout the four-hour concert, several artists shared their appreciation to the fans for allowing their dreams to come true. “I used to come to CMA Fest every year because I love country music,” Shelton said during his set, promising that he’ll be back next year.
Shelton closed the night and said there has never been a time where he has come out to play the stage at CMA Fest’s Nissan Stadium and not been shocked at the number of fans in attendance singing along to his songs.
“The first thing on your mind as an artist playing is, ‘Please let them sing along with me,'” he told the audience.
Shelton didn’t have to worry as the crowd of over 50,000 country fans sang along word for word on hits like “Ol’ Red,” “Honey Bee,” “Hillbilly Bone” and “Boys ‘Round Here.”
“I promise to make it extra special for y’all,” he said, introducing his next song, “Doing It to Country Songs.” “Whatever it is I’m doing, I like doing it to country songs.”
Shelton’s “extra special” surprise included The Oak Ridge Boys who performed “Doing It to Country Songs” and “Elvira.”
“Only in Nashville, Tennessee you get something like that. That cost me a lot of money. You’re welcome,” Shelton joked.
Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler also had a surprise up his sleeves by bringing McBride to the stage for a memorable duet of “Cryin.'” The most energetic performer of the evening, Tyler ran around the stage and into the pit of fans with his scarf adorned microphone stand in hand singing previous Aerosmith hits like “Sweet Emotion” as well as new material off his forthcoming solo release including “Love Is Your Name” and “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere.”
“We’ve got some of the best fans in the world in one town tonight and it’s so special for all of us,” Tyler Hubbard said. “Thank you for making our dreams come true. We love y’all.”
Florida Georgia Line’s set showcased previous singles “This Is How We Roll,” “Anything Goes,” “Sun Daze,” “Round Here,” “Dirt,” and “H.O.L.Y.” before they closed with the record breaking “Cruise,” which they said changed their lives.
Meanwhile, Swindell was all smiles throughout his set, which had him running around the stage and constantly thanking his fans. “You’re the reason we all do this,” he said.
Swindell performed previous No. 1 singles “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight,” “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey” and “You Should Be Here” as well as his new song “Middle of a Memory” and an impressive cover of Justin Timberlake’s “Drink You Away.”
“This is one of the most amazing moments of my life,” he said, taking in the crowd at Nissan Stadium. Only his second time performing the Nissan stage at CMA Fest, his excitement was evident. “We’re all here because we love what we do. You’re the most loyal and crazy supportive people on this planet.”
Where Swindell and FGL brought the party, Chris Young brought the vocal power. One of the best male vocalists in the genre, Young’s set included upbeat opener “Aw Naw,” fan favorites “Getting You Home” and “Lonely Eyes,” as well as previous No. 1 hits “I’m Comin’ Over” and “Think of You” with Cassadee Pope and new single “Sober Saturday Night.” A native of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Young said he frequently attended CMA Fest growing up and waited in line for autographs from his favorite country singers.
“This is always one of my favorite weeks of the year,” he said. “I love CMA Fest. I love everything about it.”
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band opened the show with their riveting blend of country and bluegrass music playing hits like “Mr. Bojangles” and their 1987 staple, “Fishin’ in the Dark” alongside banjo, fiddle, harmonica and accordion accompaniment.
“Who wants to go fishing in here?” frontman Jeff Hanna asked, introducing the song. “Let’s hear y’all sing.”
And sing they did. Night three had the audience at Nissan Stadium singing along with each artist on the stage. CMA Fest continues for its final day today, which is sure to bring even more surprises as the festival comes to a close.