Only the closing night fireworks display could match Day 4 of the CMA Music Festival at Nissan Stadium on Sunday, June 12. The explosive lineup kicked off with legendary band Exile, continued through Little Big Town, Thomas Rhett and Brett Eldredge and wrapped with blistering sets from Keith Urban and Luke Bryan.
But amid all the revelry, the show rightly remembered the victims and families of the shooting tragedies in Orlando, which had happened earlier that morning. Little Big Town paused midway through their set to deliver “One Dance” with guest performer Pharrell Williams. “We decided we should sing it tonight,” announced LBT’s Karen Fairchild. “We needed healing.” Karen further exhorted the crowd to “show Orlando some love” as the band rendered the song with appropriate emotion.
Nissan Stadium Lineup – Sunday, June 12
- Little Big Town
- Thomas Rhett
- Brett Eldredge
- Keith Urban
- Luke Bryan
Luke Bryan also took a moment to reflect on the tragedy. As he performed “Drink a Beer,” a poignant number in its own right, Luke addressed the audience. “Something’s been real heavy on my heart today,” he said. “Let’s take a moment of silence for Orlando.”
Exile set the otherwise festive tone for the night with a perfectly timed set of past hits like “Super Love” and the classic “Kiss You All Over,” balanced with a soulful rendition of The Impressions’ “People Get Ready,” first released in 1965. The band, which has been around in several incarnations for more than 50 years, sounded as fresh as much younger pups.
After Little Big Town opened their set with the summery “Pontoon,” vocalist Karen Fairchild declared, “We’re going to have a party tonight!” That theme carried over to “Day Drinking” before changing pace later in their segment when the opening chords of “Girl Crush” came wafting over the audience, bringing the packed house to a laid-back silence. The quartet’s soul-shouting version of their early hit ‘Boondocks” gave the down-home Southern anthem a touch of Sunday morning revival, bringing the set to a thunderous close.
Thomas Rhett and buddy Brett Eldredge stormed the stage together for “Vacation” until TR took over for his solo spot. He gave the fans hit after hit, from the fun-loving “Make Me Wanna” and “Get Me Some of That” to the ultra-romantic “Die a Happy Man” before ending with “T-Shirt.”
Brett Eldredge followed with a collection of his own hits, starting with “Lose My Mind,” featuring his drive-the girls-crazy falsetto, and “Beat of the Music.” One of the finest pure singers on today’s scene, Brett displayed some powerful range in “Wanna Be That Song.” He also made sure to render his first career No. 1, “Don’t Ya,” before Thomas Rhett hit the stage to join Brett for “You Can’t Stop Me,” rounding out the set.
Billy Ray Cyrus was brought to the stage to do the introduction for Keith Urban. Billy Ray sported an Elvis-style look with dark hair and shades, as befitting his role in the CMT series Still the King. But we must admit that he bears a much stronger resemblance to Wolfman Jack than an Elvis-type character.
Keith Urban demonstrated his incredible guitar prowess on “Where the Blacktop Ends” and “Somewhere in My Car” before slowing things down slightly with “Break on Me.” There’s always an amazing energy to Keith’s performances, never phoning it in or taking a set for granted. He ran out into the front row of the audience for handshakes and high-fives, then continued playing without barely a pause for a breath. Keith infused his No. 1 hit “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” with a smattering of John Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane”and The Police’s “So Lonely.”
Closing act Luke Bryan likely summed up audience sentiments with his first number, “That’s My Kind of Night.” When he announced, “The party starts right now,” he was true to his word, delivering an extended set that had the crowd rocking until well past the midnight hour. Fans sang along to “Play It Again” and “Strip It Down” as Luke strutted about the stage. It appeared he would end with “Huntin,’ Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day,” and indeed some folks began to make their way to the exits.
But Luke stayed on, initiating a good-natured guitar feud with Keith Urban, who returned to the stage to trade licks with Luke. The two joined forces for “Fishin’ in the Dark” and Brooks & Dunn’s “Hillbilly Deluxe” before Luke took over once more, sending the fans off on a blistering note with “Country Girl (Shake It for Me).” No doubt, everyone in the place got considerable bang for their bucks.
See you next year!