The crowd at CMA Fest was clearly a bit disappointed. Billy Ray Cyrus had played an early set on Saturday night at Nissan Stadium, blazing through bar-band standards like “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” as well as his own hits like “Some Gave All” and “Achy Breaky Heart” before saying good night without a mention of his collaboration with Lil Nas X on “Old Town Road.” A chant for the song began to echo around the stadium as even as crew began resetting the stage.
They wouldn’t get what they wanted for nearly another hour, after another performer had come and gone. But just before Miranda Lambert and Pistol Annies were set to make their stage, those familiar banjo chords began to ring out and the crowd went absolutely nuts. Cyrus reappeared to sign his opening lines, and then Lil Nas X, in a bright orange jacket and pants, danced his way on stage and nearly had his first lines drowned out by the crowd roaring its enthusiasm.
There was one more surprise in store, though, as Keith Urban — who performed his own cover version of the song — stepped from the shadows of the stage to sing a verse of his own and add some instrumental improvisation on his banjo. The three joined together for a harmonized version of the chorus to close things out — three quick, powerful minutes when the entire place just went berserk.
Earlier in the week, Lil Nas X made a past-midnight appearance on the rooftop of Ole Red in downtown Nashville, drawing in a massive crowd to see the young star perform his hit song. CMA Fest continues through Sunday evening, with performances at Nissan Stadium by Maren Morris, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan.