CMA Music Fest Night One: Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley Salute Fans
The first of four nights of massive CMA Music Festival stadium shows kicked off at Nashville’s LP Field Thursday night, bookended by two generations of country megastars and highlighting just how far the genre has come.
Jason Aldean closed the show with attitude and swagger, while Alan Jackson got things going with cool confidence and a nod to the past. Interestingly — given the timely, red-hot debate over country radio’s longstanding gender inequality issues — not a single female artist sang a note. The others on the bill included Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts and Sam Hunt.
Aldean’s set didn’t start until almost 11:30 p.m., but that didn’t deter the majority of fans. They were rewarded when Aldean blasted right out of the gate with “Tattoos on this Town” and “Just Gettin’ Started.” Mixing the tough-guy tunes of his early career with the steamy, sneering R&B influence he’s got going on now, Aldean also included “Take a Little Ride,” “When She Says Baby” and “Burning It Down.”
“2015 is the 10 year anniversary of our first single, ‘Hick Town,'” Aldean said from the stage with appreciation. “The coolest thing is that not only do we get to make music and have this great career, but you fans allowed us to do it our way. It’s no big secret that sometimes we put out songs that are a little left-of-center, not right down the middle.”
“My Kinda Party” got the crowd pumping their fists, and “Dirt Road Anthem,” the first truly successful country-rap combination, kept them going. By the time Aldean closed with “She’s Country” and its industrial rock-leaning intro, it was clear that country music’s current bad boy feels right at home pushing the musical envelope.
Just before Aldean, Florida Georgia Line turned in a high-energy performance that could have worked as a headlining set of its own. Often standing back-to-back at center stage or sharing thrashing dance moves with fans in the photo pit, the duo delivered every song like it was their last. “This Is How We Roll,” “Sipping on Fire” and current single “Anything Goes” came off in quick succession before the duo’s Tyler Hubbard addressed the huge crowd.
“You pack 70,000 people in a place like this, I’ll tell you what, FGL gonna throw a party!” he said. “What do you say we crank it up one more notch?”
The fireball-whiskey worshiping “Round Here” came next, with almost all of those 70,000 or so singing along at the top of their lungs.
In a moment that almost stopped the show in its tracks, a little bit of TV production snuck its way into the middle of FGL’s set. ABC is taping all four LP Field shows for the upcoming CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock special, so at one point the duo were asked to take a selfie from the stage — but not just any selfie, a video selfie with a script to read.
The script was something cheesy to the effect of, “We’re ‘Cruising’ to your homes for CMA Fest,” so it bombed, but Hubbard was quick-thinking enough to come up with a better idea. Belting out the first line of the chorus in “Round Here,” the crowd instinctively picked up where he left off. FGL were then left to just mug for the camera while 70,000 country fans screamed their song behind them.
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