BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
The big surprise at Nissan Stadium during the Thursday CMA Fest debut evening concert (June 8) was the appearance of Garth Brooks.
Even the music-biz attendees in the CMA Hospitality Suite stopped schmoozing in amazement. Garth dashed off a celebratory medley of hits, including “The Thunder Rolls,” “Calling Baton Rouge,” “The Dance” and “Friends in Low Places.” Everyone sang along on the last-named, and Garth left the stage with his arms raised in triumph.
The evening began with Phil Vassar performing The National Anthem, then “American Soul” with the USO Choir and the USCBP. Those initials stand for the U.S. Customs & Border Patrol. Wait. They have their own chorus?!
Emcee Bobby Bones brought on Kenny Rogers, to whom the audience gave lots of love. In truth, Kenny looked frail and infirm. He suffers from hepatitis C and skin cancer and has been recovering from throat surgery, a knee replacement and a rotator-cuff operation. He was seated during most of his performance.
I didn’t hear him tell the fans this, but his tour earlier this year was billed as his farewell. I don’t believe we’ll see him at the Fest again.
The audience sang all of his familiar hits along with him. Kenny brought out Linda Davis to sing with him on “We’ve Got Tonight” and “Blaze of Glory.” He hobbled off on her arm to a big, affectionate ovation.
Hosts Lorianne Crook & Charlie Chase introduced Brett Eldredge, who stalked the stage with loads of energy and personality. His oversized, joyous presentation was that of a superstar in the making. Ya gotta love the guy.
Cole Swindell had the unfortunate scheduling of following Garth. He came out with guns blazing. Still, the crowd was waiting for the evening’s headliners, Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan.
The CMA Suite overlooking the stadium was populated by such fabulons as Dale Bobo, Debbie Linn, Joe Galante, Laura Heatherly, Dennis Banka, Michael Knox, Brandi Simms, Sherod Robertson, Nathan Pyle, JoAnn Berry, Marie Ratzman and Melissa Maynard.
Singer Michael Tyler was talking about his debut single “They Can’t See.” It turns out that he is related to Jimmie Rodgers, the Father of Country Music. Hardcore traditionalist Joe Hott was bearing copies of his debut CD, The Last Thing on My Mind. It features stellar guests such as Jamey Johnson and The Whites.
Gazing out over it all was Jo Walker-Meador, the woman who founded Fan Fair back in 1972, when she was head of the CMA. Now 93 years old, she is as sharp as a tack. She recalled that only 1,000 people signed up for the Fest in its inaugural year, so she “papered the house” with free passes given out to soldiers from nearby Ft. Campbell, KY. “We had to do whatever it took,” she quipped.
Five decades later, a look at a 50,000+ cheering throng must be quite an overwhelming feeling for her. It certainly is for me.
For a recap of 2017 CMA Music Festival’s daytime activities on Thursday (June 8), click here.