ACM Awards Win Vegas Jackpot

Dark songs require dark shades—Eric Church wants his hometown back.

Dark songs require dark shades—Eric Church wants his hometown back.

Selfie time! Co-hosts Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton search for the biggest stars in the room—decide they are the biggest stars.

Selfie time! Co-hosts Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton search for the biggest stars in the room; determine that they are the biggest stars.

“I always said I have the best fans,” noted George Strait as he accepted Entertainer of the Year honors at last night’s (April 6) ACM Awards, “and I heard this is a fan-voted award, so I rest my case.” Making it two-for-two, Strait also took home the top trophy at the November CMA Awards.

The ACM show brought a galaxy’s worth of Country star power to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The string of excellent performances—ten, in fact, before the first award was handed out— surely left fans satisfied. Still, there were a few black holes in the line up. Nominees Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood presented but didn’t perform. Nor did Album of the Year winner Kacey Musgraves. Meanwhile artists Strait, Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert, Lady Antebellum and co-hosts Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan took the stage twice each, either to sing their own songs, or to assist another artist.

Hunter Hayes gives a powerful performance of "Invisible."

Hunter Hayes gives a powerful performance of “Invisible.”

Hunter Hayes had the best stage set of the evening. He donned an all-black wardrobe and played “Invisible” in front of an orchestra dressed in white with white instruments, while contrasting black and white images danced on the video screen. The production for Eric Church’s “Give Me Back My Hometown” included the film-like music video in the background and a graveyard setting in the foreground. As always, he delivered with passion. Lady A’s pairing with iconic songstress Stevie Nicks was a stripped down vocal dream of “Golden” and “Rhiannon.” Tim McGraw offered an old-Hollywood take on his new song “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” and was joined by Faith Hill where they seemed to share an endearing moment. It was also good to see a performance by mega-star Toby Keith, who is sometimes absent from Country’s trophyfests.

Lady Antebellum and Stevie Nicks were enthralling.

Lady Antebellum and Stevie Nicks were enthralling.

Show opener The Band Perry scored with plenty of family-sized energy. Brad Paisley’s poolside performance of “River Bank” was sunny fun. Keith Urban brought three drummers to the party for “Even The Stars Fall 4 U.” Lambert, Strait, Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, and Darius Rucker gave solid performances. Sheryl Crow and Dierks Bentley teamed for his hit “I Hold On,” from his highly listenable set Riser, (one of this year’s best releases).

At the ACM Fan Jam at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, FGL and Bryan sang “This Is How We Roll” with an exciting mash-up of sky-high flames and summersaulting bike tricks.

Justin Moore, who barely squeezed in a nomination for New Artist, took home that fan-voted prize. Brett Eldredge, Kip Moore and Lee Brice had abbreviated performance slots. Brice’s “I Drive Your Truck” earned Song of the Year for writers Jessi Alexander, Jimmy Yeary, and Connie Harrington. Often an astute predictor of awards to follow, MusicRow subscriber members voted it MusicRow Song of the Year in 2013.

Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington and Jimmy Yeary accept Song of the Year honors.

Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington and Jimmy Yeary accept Song of the Year honors.

Back at the MGM, charmer Shelton reiterated that he’s equally adept at delivering a ballad as a bro-country smash, performing the sexy tune “My Eyes” with Gwen Sebastian on a romantic, candlelit stage.

Bryan and Shelton shared plenty of camaraderie as co-hosts, and while the jokes were mostly funny, they borrowed a little too much from this year’s other awards shows, including a selfie photo, Travolta-ized name mispronunciation, and Daft Punk space helmets.

Underwood won in the style department.

Underwood won in the style department.

Shelton also teamed with Shakira for “Medicine.” His fellow coach on The Voice makes the morning-after worst-dressed list with her red lingerie slip. Making the best-dressed list are the silver glam gowns worn by Faith Hill and Carrie Underwood; as well as Luke Bryan, who donned a sharp springtime suit for hosting duties and switched to black leather jacket for his performance of “Play It Again.”

With so ACM many highlights, fans are likely ready to play it again. And their year-long wait will be well worth it, because the 2015 move to the home of the Dallas Cowboys is sure to bring Texas-sized entertainment.
View evening ratings. 
View full winner list.
View after-party photos.

McGraw and Hill still have spades of onstage chemistry.

McGraw and Hill still have spades of onstage chemistry.

Photos courtesy of ACM.

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Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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