Where night one of CMA Fest brought the surprises, night two brought the instrumental jams.
Whether it was Frankie Ballard’s epic guitar riffs during his instrumental performance of the National Anthem, Chris Stapleton’s minute-long musical interludes or Carrie Underwood’s jaw-dropping harmonica playing, Friday (June 10) showcased each acts’ musical prowess at the CMA Fest Nightly Concert at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium.
Underwood closed the evening shortly before midnight and throughout her 35-minute set demonstrated why she is one of country music’s greatest voices. Songs like “Last Name,” “Undo It” and “Before He Cheats” kept fans on their feet singing along while the swampy “Choctaw County Affair” had them screaming during Underwood’s impressive harmonica feature. Though, it was on the poignant “Something In the Water” that left the greatest mark. Closing the song with “Amazing Grace,” the thousands of fans at Nissan Stadium roared at the singer’s captivating vocals.
Chris Janson and Justin Moore both surprised the audience for a spirited performance of their singles, “Buy Me a Boat” and “You Look Like I Need a Drink” respectively, before sharing the microphone with legend Hank Williams Jr. Eric Church also made a cameo with Bocephus for their collaboration, “Are You Ready for the Country,” backed by a brass ensemble, several guitarists and additional vocalists.
“Time to get this party started!” Bocephus said before launching into “The Party’s On” off his 2016 release, It’s About Time. The raucous continued with longstanding fan favorite “Family Tradition,” which had him nearing the edge of the stage conducting the audience in a sing along.
Church appeared right before Hank Jr.’s set. Dressed in jeans, a black leather jacket and his signature shades, he brought the grit with the soaring “Mr. Misunderstood,” emotional “Record Year” and the animated “Chattanooga Lucy” off his latest project. Ending his set with the slowed “Mixed Drinks About Feelings,” which he calls one of his favorite songs, he held the audience of 50,000 in the palm of his hand on the stripped down track.
Meanwhile, Sam Hunt brought the party the only way he knows how: with an energetic set that had him running around the Nissan Stadium stage and into the crowd. The most lively performance of the night, songs like “Leave the Night On,” “Raised On It” and “Take Your Time” had the stadium transformed into a dance party while slowed new single “Make You Miss Me” saw Hunt sitting at the piano for the ballad, exemplifying his ability to switch gears while still pleasing his fans.
“It’s good to be back home on a Friday night,” Hunt said. “I want you to sing, dance, relax. Whatever makes you feel good, Nashville.”
Stapleton’s set impressed both vocally and musically. A band made up of musicians who have played with everyone from Waylon Jennings to Willie Nelson, the instrumental jams were extraordinary. Opening song “Nobody To Blame” featured Mickey Raphael on harmonica as Stapleton’s wife, Morgane, provided harmonies. The bluesy “Outlaw State of Mind” followed suit having one fan scream, “We love you!” to which Stapleton responded, “I love you too, honey. Thank you!” With little talking throughout his set, Stapleton simply showcased the music and his vocal power, even singing as he introduced each band member to the audience. Closing his set with a riveting performance of “Tennessee Whiskey,” once again Stapleton proved why he has been the name on everyone’s lips since his big wins at the CMA Awards last November.
Country legend Clint Black opened the show with previous No. 1 hits “Nothin’ But the Taillights” and “Killin’ Time.” He also performed a song called “You Still Get to Me,” featuring his wife Lisa Hartman Black, from his latest album, On Purpose.
“I don’t know if we’re cooling down or warming up, which is it?” he joked during his set, alluding to temperatures in the low 90s.”It’s good to be here with you. We love you, Nashville!”
While temperatures are likely to hit close to 100 the remainder of the festival, that isn’t deterring any country fans from attending the nightly concerts at Nissan Stadium which continue tonight and Sunday, surely with more surprises and instrumental jams.