There was plenty of solo firepower for the third day of CMA Music Festival’s Nightly Shows at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Saturday night (June 11). Current standard bearers Blake Shelton, Chris Young, Florida Georgia Line and Cole Swindell led a balanced lineup that also featured Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler and classic country/rock pioneers Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
But it’s become customary in recent CMA fests to welcome collaborations to the stadium stage. This night was packed with such dynamic duets, as Cassadee Pope, Martina McBride and The Oak Ridge Boys joined the various headliners, providing several one-of-a-kind moments.
The Dirt Band, celebrating more than 50 years of making music, proved that they still can still bring it with a sterling opening set that included two of their best-known tunes, “Mr. Bojangles” and “Fishin’ in the Dark.”
Nissan Stadium Lineup – Saturday, June 11
- Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
- Chris Young (guest Cassadee Pope)
- Cole Swindell
- Florida Georgia Line
- Steven Tyler (guest Martina McBride)
- Blake Shelton (guests The Oak Ridge Boys)
Somewhat surprisingly, a high volume of younger fans seemed to know the lyrics and melodies of these time-honored chestnuts.
The band gave way to Chris Young, who quipped that he was getting ready to celebrate his “tenth year of turning 21” the following day. Crowd favorites “Aw Naw” and the chart-topping “I’m Comin’ Over” segued into Chris’ current single “Sober Saturday Night,” which features Vince Gill on the recording. Vince was not on hand to provide backup but Chris did bring in another duet partner for a later tune. Cassadee Pope entered to wild applause for a duet with Chris on their recent No. 1 smash, “Think of You.”
Cole Swindell recalled playing past CMA Music Festival shows as a relative newcomer. Now, he’s firmly established with a bevy of hits, and he rendered a good number of them for the fans, including the frisky “Let Me See Ya Girl” and “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey.” But he made his biggest impact with the poignant “You Should Be Here.” Fans raised their cell phones in the air as Cole became quite emotional at the outpouring of support. “Thank you all for being here with me tonight,” he exhorted, thanking the packed house.
Florida Georgia Line kept the new-country theme rolling with their hit-laden set. Duo mates Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard bounced and whirled about the stage as they lit into “This Is How We Roll,” “Dirt,” “Sun Daze” and, naturally, “Cruise,” a tune that’s likely become obligatory for the twosome. Their current single “H.O.L.Y.” was met with hell-raising enthusiasm from the fans.
Steven Tyler was ostensibly onhand to promote his burgeoning country career. But he also served notice that he was not entirely abandoning his Aerosmith legacy, kicking off his portion with the band’s “Sweet Emotion.” Steven whipped out the classic rock catalog even further with a Beatles medley of “I’m Down” and “Oh! Darling” along with a cover of “Piece of My Heart,” made famous by Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin (but first recorded by Erma Franklin, Aretha’s older sister). He did offer a rendition of his new country release, “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere,” the title track to his upcoming album. Martina McBride hit the stage for a raise-the-roof rendition of Aerosmith’s “Cryin’” with Steven, a collaboration that worked despite the seemingly odd pairing.
Blake Shelton closed the evening with a full band set, led off by past hit “Ol’ Red” and a new tune, “She’s Got a Way With Words,” a thinly-veiled reference to his split from Miranda Lambert. Blake kept the hits coming with “Came Here to Forget,” “Hillbilly Bone” and “Honey Bee,” all crowd pleasers to be certain. He complimented the fans on their sing-along talents, noting that they stayed on-key and right on the beat. During a brief pause, Blake told the crowd that he wished to make the night “real special,” and did just that by bringing out a legendary foursome. The Oak Ridge Boys bounded to the stage and joined Blake for “Doing It to Country Songs,” segueing seamlessly into the quartet’s beloved classic “Elvira,” easily the coolest moment of the evening. Blake closed it out with “Boys ‘Round Here” as the clock slowly approached midnight.
Blake Shelton Main photo by John Shearer/Getty Images
FGL, Blake Shelton with arms up, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Chris Young photos by Richard Gabriel Ford
Steven Tyler, Steven Tyler with Martina McBride, Chris Young and Cassadee Pope, Blake Shelton, Cole Swindell (2), FGL photos by John Shearer