The 51st Annual CMA Awards brought a lot of great performances, a lot of laughs and even some tears. Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley hosted the show for the 10th consecutive year, opening with a touching tribute to the victims of 2017’s tragedies and asking permission to enjoy the music for the rest of the night.
From the strong opening ensemble act to the raucous Alan Jackson close, the show was a non-stop ride. Here are some of our favorite moments.
Along with the touching tributes and surprising wins, there were gentle jabs at President Donald Trump, a renegade concert outside the arena, and one of country music’s biggest stars admitting to lip-syncing.
Phew. Here’s what we’ll be talking about for weeks to come.
The show began with a pop song nearly as old as some of the night’s nominees.
The positive lyrics of the song, which call for love, tenderness, peace and harmony, were an uplifting start to the show.
Keith Urban, Reba McEntire, Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum, Brooks & Dunn, Thomas Rhett, Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and more joined Rucker in the singalong, which earned a standing ovation from the crowd at Bridgestone Arena.
Eddie Montgomery salutes Troy Gentry
Two months ago, Troy Gentry, one half of country duo Montgomery Gentry, died in a plane crash. On Wednesday night, he was remembered on stage.
In Gentry’s honor, Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts performed the foot-stomping anthem My Town, a top 5 hit for Montgomery Gentry in 2002. During the performance, Flatts singer Gary LeVox sported a Batman T-shirt, a nod to Gentry’s favorite superhero.
They were joined for the second half of the song by Eddie Montgomery, who strode on stage twirling his microphone stand as images of Gentry were shown on the screen behind him.
Carrie Underwood leads ‘In Memoriam’ segment
The country music world has been beset by tragedy this year.
Fifty-eight music fans were killed at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, three Country Music Hall of Famers — Jo Walker-Meador, Glen Campbell and Don Williams — died, and Troy Gentry was killed in a helicopter crash.
At Wednesday night’s CMA Awards, megastar Carrie Underwood delivered a touching performance in memory of the lives lost in the last year.
Dressed in white and backed by a piano, she performed the gospel song Softly and Tenderly as images of Norro Wilson, Bob Forshee, Billy Mize, Tom Petty, Gregg Allman and many more were displayed behind her. At the end of her performance, Underwood became emotional as photos of the Las Vegas victims filled the screen.
While Underwood sang, Bridgestone Arena was illuminated by flameless candles each audience member had been given at the start of the show.
Garth wins big and comes clean
Minutes after winning his second consecutive Entertainer of the Year award, Garth Brooks came clean.
Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Brooks acknowledged that he lip-synced his performance of Ask Me How I Know on Wednesday’s show.
“We made a game-time call on whether to sing to a track or lip-sync,” Brooks said. “And we decided to lip-sync it.”
Brooks said he was sick, and in the midst of 12 shows in 10 days.
“We decided to lip-sync it because my voice was just not there, and we wanted to represent country music the best we can.”
True to his Entertainer of the Year title, Brooks has been touring and performing relentlessly. He played five concerts last weekend: one on Friday, two on Saturday and two on Sunday.
Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley lampoon Trump in song
The 2017 CMA Awards opened Wednesday with an uplifting musical performance, acknowledgment of the victims in Las Vegas — and a few jabs at Trump.
Co-hosts Brad Paisley and Underwood performed a song called Before He Tweets. The song was a humorous parody of Underwood’s hit Before He Cheats, all about Trump’s use of Twitter.
“Right now, he’s probably in his PJs, watching cable news, reaching for his cellphone,” Paisley sang.
“Right now, he’s probably asking Siri, ‘How in the hell do you spell Pocahontas?’
“In the middle of the night, from the privacy of a gold-plated White House toilet seat, he writes ‘Liddle Bob Corker, NFL and covfefe.”
Paisley and Underwood then stopped to determine how to pronounce Trump’s famous typo, before resuming:
“And it’s fun to watch, yeah, that’s for sure, ’til little Rocket Man starts a nuclear war, and then maybe next time he’ll think before he tweets.”
Little Big Town honor Glen Campbell
Little Big Town delivered an emotional tribute to the late Glen Campbell by delivering a poignant rendition of one of his biggest hits, Wichita Lineman, during the CMA Awards.
They were accompanied by Jimmy Webb on piano. Webb wrote Wichita Lineman as well as a number of other Campbell hits, including Galveston and By the Time I Get to Phoenix.
Campbell, a Country Music Hall of Famer, recorded Wichita Lineman in 1968; it became one of his best-known songs. He died in August at the age of 81 several years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Sturgill Simpson stages own concert outside
While country stars sang on stage at Bridgestone, Sturgill Simpson was outside the Nashville arena, busking for a small group of fans — and an online audience of thousands.
Sturgill played songs right in front of the arena entrance and streamed the performance on Facebook. He set up two signs in front of his guitar case:
“ ‘Struggling’ country singer. Anything helps. (All donations go to the ACLU.) God Bless America.”