The second day of Nashville’s Country Radio Seminar held plenty of star power for the yearly seminar’s radio attendees; the morning brought a panel featuring Little Big Town, and a luncheon at the Ryman Auditorium courtesy of UMG Nashville.
Wednesday evening (Feb. 19), the CRS crowd went from a historic venue to a historic show, as the Grand Ole Opry brought its magic to the Nashville Convention Center for an evening of the Opry at CRS. Each artist performed before an Opry backdrop, and the evening featured videos of artists talking about their love of the longtime show.
Just as at the Grand Ole Opry House, the Opry program was efficient; each artist was allotted two or three songs. Love and Theft’s Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson set the mood with their hits “Angel Eyes” and the smoldering “Runnin’ Out Of Air.” The duo’s latest single, “Night That You’ll Never Forget,” hits radio in April. Eric Paslay thanked the tightly packed crowd of radio personalities, program directors and industry members for his first No. 1 song as an artist before launching into “Friday Night.” His muscular, soulful voice elicited a hearty response from the industry crowd. He followed with his new single, “Song About A Girl.”
Another talented male solo artist, Chris Young, who offered the hits “You” and “Aw Naw” before closing with his current single, “Who I Am With You.”
One of the undeniable highlights of the evening was singer-songwriter Brandy Clark‘s performance. Clark’s first song was something rarely heard on Country radio in the past couple of years—an honest to goodness ballad, titled “Hold My Hand.” She followed the clever ballad with “Stripes,” the quirky tale of infidelity and a revenge halted only by an aversion to stripes and the color orange.
Will Hoge celebrated his first Country Radio Seminar with a prime performance slot at the CRS Opry show. He thanked the radio industry members for their influence on his musical career. “At some point, every one of us has fallen in love with the music.” He offered “Strong,” the tune he performs that has become the new theme song for Chevy. He followed it with a rendition of “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” which Hoge wrote and later became a hit for Eli Young Band.
The second duo of the evening, Thompson Square, gave an energetic, sweetly romantic rendition of their breakthrough hit “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?” and current single, “Everything I Shouldn’t Be Thinking About.” According to band member Shawna Thompson, this is the couple’s fourth CRS.
Actor and entertainer Charles “Chip” Esten brought a little Nashville to Nashville by performing “A Life That’s Good.” “On behalf of Country television, hello Country radio,” he quipped. “We love this industry and the show is really a love letter to this industry.” Esten got help from a famous buddy when Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus filled in for Esten’s bass player for the evening.
New Opry members Old Crow Medicine Show offered two songs, “Wagon Wheel,” and a cover of “American Girl.” The band’s forthcoming album drops July 1 on ATO Records. They had the radio programmers in the palms of their hands with their instrumental wizardry and deftly blended harmonies.
Demarcus wasn’t absent from the stage for long. He, along with his Rascal Flatts bandmates Gary LeVox and Joe Don Rooney took the stage to perform “Why Wait,” “Banjo,” and their latest single “Rewind.” The trio of upbeat songs kept the crowd’s energy level nicely elevated.
Closing the Opry show was Opry member Carrie Underwood, who couldn’t believe she has been in the industry for nearly a decade. She recalled her first Country concert she attended (Alan Jackson with Faith Hill opening), before launching into “Blown Away.” Underwood reminded the crowd that Randy Travis offered her invitation into the Grand Ole Opry, and that she was lucky to have been able to record an updated version of Travis’ “I Told You So,” which she performed with that powerful, pitch-perfect voice. Bringing the energy level up again, she closed the show with “Before He Cheats.” “I was nervous about this song when I first recorded it, because it involved doing damage to personal property,” she told the crowd. “Now a few albums later [with 2012’s Blown Away], we are knocking people off.”
The show proved a superb showcase for the eclectic expanse of music under the Country umbrella.
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