It was Thursday as downtown Nashville was in full swing gearing up for the first night of CMA Fest after a two year hiatus due to being cancelled during the covid-19 pandemic. The atmosphere was something special as all the excited fans made their way across the pedestrian bridge to Nissan Stadium. Nothing could wipes the smiles and excitement from anyones face as we all prepared to enjoy a full night of country music.
The evening kicked off with newcomer Brittany Spencer opening the night with the national anthem.
As in past years with the stadium the first main set was kicked off but a classic country band, this night it was non other than the legends that are Shenandoah. With hits such as ‘I’m In A Hurry’, ‘Two Dozen Roses’, ‘Next To You, Next To Me’ among others, I was not the only one singing along. It felt like CMA had never been away, the memories came flooding back and the fans were back in that special place.
Next up was Darius Rucker, with a look of complete joy on his face, his was clearly ecstatic to be back on stage and playing to a stadium of country fans. In true Darius style he came out rocking jeans and a classic band t-shirt, tonights choice; The Rolling Stones. Fashion choices on stage reflected the past two years with his bassis sporting a 615 brand t-shirt reading “I MISS HUGS AND LOVE MUSIC”. I think its fair to say that everyone in that stadium that night felt the same way! Hit after hit was played from Alright to Wagon Wheel as well as throwing in a few classic Hootie & The Blowfish songs; Only Wanna Be With You and Hold My Hand. Nissan rang out with the sound of people singing along and it was only going to get louder at the night went on!
Zac Brown Band took the stage next, opening their set with Homegrown, they immediately set the tone of their set bringing our their first of 3 guest acts for that night with King Calaway singing one of their own songs with them ‘When I Get Home. They took a short break from being alone on stage as they sang Same Boat before bringing on Marcus King to play Stubborn Pride with them. This was the moment that both the band and Marcus King shone on stage as they broke into a long instrumental, allowing time for a jaw dropping guitar solo by Marcus King himself. They closed out their set with Chicken Fried but not before inviting Darius Rucker our on stage to join them.
It was then time for the first Spotlight Stage performance of the night and to christian the platform for the weekend, Priscilla Block took to the stage. Clearly overhwelmed by being up there in front of tens of thousands of bands, Block smashed it with her single ‘My Bar’ and ‘Just About Over You’. This lady has a long way to go but it is shaping up to be an exciting career path for this newcomer!
Jason Aldean was up next in the star studded opening night and coming out to ‘Crazy Town’ played a plethora of hit hits as well as a new track ‘That’s What Tequila Does’. Joined virtually by Carrie Underwood on the big screen he also played one of his most recent radio hits ‘If I Didn’t Love You’. Playing tracks like ‘Tattoos on This Town’ and ‘Hicktown’ he closed out his set with ‘She’s Country’.
At this point the crowd were all on their feet, eagerly awaiting the next artists to grace the stage. It was a feeling like none of there to be there to see this historical festival take place after what felt like almost a lifetime ago.
As they set up the main stage for the final act of the night it was time for the next spotlight stage act with Dustin Lynch and Mackenzie Porter performing their hit single ‘Thinkin’ Bout You’
As the night drew to a close it was already 11.45pm when the headliner for the night, Keith Urban, came out to close the evening. CMA couldn’t have picked a better closing act for the stage, even at almost midnight, Urban came out with so much energy I almost felt tired just watching him! The sincerity of his gratefulness to be back on stage was welcomed and heartfelt as he played out his set. From having the crowd sing along to ‘In The Jungle’ to crowds screaming his name and he did his signature run out into the crowd with his guitar to a center platform before heading back to the main stage.
Just as Jason Aldean had done earlier on in the night Keith Urban also chose to ‘bring out’ a virtual guest in the form of P!NK being projected onto the giant screens at the side of the stage to sing their duet ‘One Too Many’. He played hits such as ‘Days Go By’ and ‘Somebody Like You’ ending the night with ‘Wasted Time’. Thursday night was great and it was the perfect opening to an eagerly awaited CMA Festival but we still had 3 days to go….. Catch our other reviews of the remaining nights over at www.thinkcountrymusic.com