As the artists began to trickle in from the red carpet and the excitement was building, the audience was given a series of instructions, which included making sure to applaud and keep the energy up.
At the start of the show, hosts Toby Keith and Kristen Bell made their grand entrance, riding inside the biggest Red Solo Cup in the history of Red Solo Cups. When the got to the stage, Keith pointed out that this was the country version of Lady Gaga’s “crazy egg.”
This may have been actress Bell’s first hosting duty as a country music awards show, but not only did she prove her country music chops, it turns out that she can sing, too. Kristen sang her own version of “Hell on Heels” to a seemingly unamused Pistol Annies: “I’ve got Pistol Annie tattooed on my fanny.” She went on to say she “nailed it,” and for Miranda to “just call or text her” to let her know if she’s in the band. No word on whether she’ll become the fourth Pistol Annie, though she did finally get a laugh out of the girls.
Speaking of the trio, Pistol Annies wowed the crowd with their performance of “Takin’ Pills,” despite Angaleena Presley’s blink-and-you-missed-it fall on stage.
Hank Williams, Jr. and Brad Paisley took over the outside stage with “I’m Gonna Get Drunk and Play Hank Williams.” And on a stage outside the arena, Eric Church‘s “Drink In My Hand” had the audience inside singing along and wishing they were outside with the crowd of 30,000 in the streets of downtown Nashville.
Carrie Underwood took home top honors of the evening with Video of the Year for “Good Girl,” which she performed earlier in the evening under a shower of gold confetti. Of course, confetti and singing your lungs out does a number on makeup. But not to fret, Carrie had her hair and makeup team waiting in the wings for a quick touch up.
Country legend Willie Nelson welcomed Jamey Johnson, Zac Brown Band, Darius Rucker and show cohost Toby Keith performing his new song “Roll Me Up,” and he received the only standing ovation of the evening. No surprises there.
Rascal Flatts closed out the show by welcoming rock legends Journey for a collaboration on “Don’t Stop Believing,” as the credits rolled for the folks watching at home. But for the crowd inside the arena, there was no better was to close out the show than to sing along.
-Amber Morgan / 100.3 KILT