Tens of thousands of country music fans celebrated day one of CMA Fest 2023 on Thursday night (June 8). After a day full of great music across Nashville—and shockingly comfortable weather—attendees filed into Nissan Stadium for night one on the big stage.
This year’s CMA Fest is special, as it is the 50th anniversary of the country music pilgrimage to Nashville. The golden anniversary was front of mind for every performer that hit the stage Thursday night.
After CMA CEO Sarah Trahern welcomed everyone to night one at Nissan, King Calaway did a beautiful job with the National Anthem.
Fans were thrilled when ’90s country icon Jo Dee Messina took the stage. She sounded as great as ever on her hits “Bye Bye,” “A Lesson In Leavin'” and “My Give A Damn’s Busted.”
“I’m so grateful to be a part of country music. I have been for the last few years… If you know how many, keep it to yourself,” Messina said. “I’ve had a wonderful run.”
Messina brought out Christian artist Ben Fuller to sing a new song that could be called “He Got A Hold Of Me.” She talked about how her faith had changed her life 10 years ago, and said that the tune would be a single soon.
Before leaving the stage, Messina got the crowd super rowdy with “Heads Carolina, Tails California.”
Next up was Jordan Davis. He kept the energy high, performing a rousing version of his recent No. 1 hit “What My World Spins Around.” It was his first time playing in a venue as big as Nissan Stadium, and the star did it with ease and eyes full of wonder.
Fans bounced along to Davis’ hits “Singles You Up,” “Almost Maybes” and “Take It From Me,” but his real star power shined in the slower, reflective tunes. The crowd swayed and sang loudly to “Slow Dance in a Parking Lot” and “Buy Dirt.”
A highlight from Davis’ set was his sure-to-be next No. 1 hit, “Next Thing You Know.”
“I moved to Nashville 12 years ago this month to chase country music,” Davis said. “Next thing you know, you’re standing in the end zone at the Titans’ stadium playing CMA Fest.”
The loudest crowd response of the night came when Luke Combs appeared on stage. He blitzed the crowd with hit after hit, getting everyone’s booties shaking and hands in the air to “The Kind of Love We Make,” “1, 2 Many” and “When It Rains It Pours.”
Nissan went wild when Combs sang his cover of Tracy Chapman‘s “Fast Car,” which is quickly climbing the charts. Before he sang his 2017 mega-hit “Beautiful Crazy,” he let the crowd know that he had been presented with a Diamond-certified plaque for the song earlier in the day, aligning him with a very exclusive crowd of Diamond-selling country songs.
One of the night’s top highlights came when Combs invited out a hero of his to sing a song. “I have never been as excited as I am right now in my entire career to bring out my absolute hero. He’s an absolute legend on the guitar and on vocals. Singing one of his incredible songs, give it up for Vince Gill!” Combs said.
Gill joined the young star to sing his infectiously fun “One More Last Chance.” Combs closed with a chest-pumping “Beer Never Broke My Heart” before saying goodbye to a very satisfied Nissan Stadium.
In between a few big performances, audience members turned their attention to a platform stage to hear from some newer artists. RVSHVD, one of Thursday night’s featured artists, gave attendees a taste of his country, hip-hop fusion with tunes such as his new song “For The Streets.” Ashley Cooke charmed the audience with “Getting Into” and “It’s Been A Year.”
Carly Pearce was next to perform—it was also her first time playing the big stage. As she has done so well in her career thus far, she put her heart on full display for her seven-song set, frequently letting fans in on the backstory behind her songs and talking about her love for country music.
“I just have one question for you: are you ready for some country music tonight?” Pearce said.
The singer-songwriter brought the sass on “Diamondback” and “Easy Going,” and the relatability on “Next Girl” and her Grammy-winning “What He Didn’t Do.”
In another awesome collaborative moment, Pearce brought back Messina for her “I’m Alright.” The two sounded so fabulous together that we will definitely need a recording.
Pearce closed her set with “I Hope You’re Happy Now” and beamed up at the crowd as she gracefully exited.
In a surprise moment, Darius Rucker appeared on a small satellite stage in the middle of excited fans. With an acoustic guitar and a few band members, he played his new single “Fires Don’t Start Themselves.” When Nissan Stadium heard the first strums of Rucker’s titanic “Wagon Wheel,” they lost their minds.
Back on the big stage, Tyler Hubbard was the next performer. Complete with backup dancers, Hubbard showed off some of his new solo music, playing songs like “Tough,” “35’s,” “Me For Me” and “Inside and Out” from his debut solo album.
Fans really enjoyed hearing “Small Town Me” and his first No. 1 as a solo artist, “5 Foot 9.” “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have two first singles in my career,” Hubbard said when he introduced the song.
Everyone danced along to Hubbard’s second No. 1, “Dancin’ in the Country,” before he closed his set.
Dan + Shay got the late shift for CMA Fest night one. They started their set at midnight, and were grateful to the troupers that stayed. “It’s past our bedtime so we appreciate you for being here,” Dan Smyers said to the crowd.
The award-winning duo got everyone on their feet for “10,000 Hours,” “Nothin’ Like You” and “You.” Fans sang their heart out to “How Not To,” “From the Ground Up” and “Speechless,” but no one sings better than Shay Mooney.
In the ultimate finale, Dan + Shay sang their Grammy-winning, seven times-Platinum hit, “Tequila,” leaving everyone who stayed for the long haul pleased.
Friday night at Nissan Stadium will feature music from Lainey Wilson, Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban, Hardy and more.
- NSAI Notches Another Epic Nashville Songwriter Awards Show [Recap] - September 27, 2023
- 2023 Nashville Songwriter Award Winners – Complete List - September 27, 2023
- Joey Harris Promoted To VP Of Publishing At 50 Egg Music - September 26, 2023