Rick Diamond, Getty Images
Before the music got underway, CMA CEO Steve Moore introduced Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who jokingly urged the crowd, "If you have any money, please spend it. We're going through our budget process. Any help would be appreciated."
The first performance of the night was from the Nashville School of the Arts Chamber Singers and the talented high school ensemble delivered a version of the "Star Spangled Banner" that made Music City proud.
Throughout the evening, Storme Warren, host of GAC's Headline Country, was an amiable and energetic Music Fest host. The first standing ovation of the night belonged to Country Music Hall of Famer Glen Campbell. At times his battle with Alzheimer's disease crept into his set, but for the most part his performance was magical as young country music fans got a chance to see one of the legendary performers whose talent defined the genre and carried the music to a broader audience in the 60s and 70s.
Glen opened his set with the John Hartford-penned classic "Gentle on My Mind" and continued to wow the crowd with such hits as "Galveston," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Witchita Lineman," all written by the incomparable Jimmy Webb. Glen also delivered a rousing version of "Try a Little Kindness" and "Southern Nights" before finishing up with "Rhinestone Cowboy," which had the crowd singing along.
Next up, Miranda Lambert exploded onto the stage looking sassy in a black leather bustier, short sparkly black skirt and knee-high boots. She opened with "Baggage Claim," the first hit single off her current album, Four the Record. "I'm gonna sing y'all my new single," she said before strapping on a pink guitar and launching into a high octane version of "Fastest Girl in Town." She slowed the pace to perform her recent chart-topping hit, "Over You." Miranda thanked fans for making it No. 1 and dedicated the beautiful ballad to anyone who had lost someone they loved.
"Has anybody out there heard of the Pistol Annies?" she asked and the crowd roared as she welcomed Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley to the stage. The trio launched into the title track of their album 'Hell on Hells' and then delivered a feisty performance of "Takin' Pills." When her fellow Annies exited, Miranda resumed her solo performance with a blazing take on her hit "White Liar."
"Guess what country music fans? You made that my first No. 1 single ever. Thank you so much," she gushed to the crowd, telling them how she used to come to Music Fest and enjoy the show from a seat all the way up at the top of the stadium. "I can't tell you how much it means to me to be up here as an artist and have y'all singing my songs back to me.
"Country music has the best fans in the world," Miranda said before finishing her set with an incendiary performance of "Gunpowder & Lead."
On a smaller, elevated stage, located in the middle of the stadium, Kellie Pickler delivered a too brief acoustic set that featured "Tough" and the stone cold country anthem "Stop Cheatin' On Me" from her incredible album '100 Proof.' Fans cheered their approval.
Wade Payne, AP
"Thanks to you guys, you made this our fifth consecutive No. 1 single," Jason said before serving up his poignant hit "Fly Over States." He ended his set with the one-two punch of "Dirt Road Anthem" and "She's Country."
Lady Antebellum opened their set with the multi-format smash "Need You Now" and segued into a high-spirited rendition of "We Own the Night." Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley traded lead vocals, infusing every song with passion and power. Newlywed Dave Haywood demonstrated his amazing musical versatility and great rapport with the crowd.
Lady A continued to thrill the crowd with "Our Kind of Love," "American Honey" and "Wanted You More." Charles thanked the crowd for making "I Run to You" the trio's first No. 1 hit and they launched into a stirring rendition of the song before winding up their set with a high energy performance of "Lookin' for a Good Time."
As the crowd eagerly anticipated the next performance, Storme welcomed Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas to the stage and the NFL ace tossed a football into the excited crowd.
The Zac Brown Band took the stage next and the audience immediately got into the ZBB groove as the Georgia boys launched into "Keep Me in Mind." They followed with a blistering rendition of Charlie Daniels' signature hit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." "We love you! Thanks for much for being here tonight," Zac told the crowd and announced that the group's new album, Uncaged, would be out July 10.
One of the highlight's of ZBB's set was their stirring rendition of "America the Beautiful" which had the audience on its feet. They finished with the band's breakthrough hit "Chicken Fried."
Next up, bubbly 17-year-old Lauren Alaina appeared in a short sparkly dress on the acoustic stage to perform a couple of numbers, including her single "Georgia Peaches."
Brad Paisley ended a memorable night of music with an incredible performance that had the crowd on its feet dancing and singing along. He began his set with "Camouflage," a clever ode to that most country of fashion statements. Next he segued into a lively version of "Mud on the Tires" that showcased not only his effortless vocals, but also his amazing guitar skills. Paisley and his band, The Drama Kings, continued with the title track of his 2009 album "American Saturday Night."
"I love country music because it's real music for real people," Brad said before launching into the title track of his current album "This is Country Music." He sang the first verse with just an acoustic guitar before the band kicked in on the second verse. A fan thrust a guitar to the stage for Brad to sign and he happily obliged.
Fans were treated to a special surprise as Hank Williams Jr. joined Brad to perform their duet "I'm Gonna Get Drunk and Play Hank Williams." The superstar collaboration had the crowd on its feet screaming. As Bocephus exited the stage, Brad closed out the night with the fan favorite "Alcohol," even leaping off stage into the crowd for part of the performance.
"God bless you and enjoy the rest of your weekend," Brad told the crowd as the first night of CMA Music Fest 2012 drew to a close a little after midnight.
The fun continues at LP Field Friday night with performances from The Band Perry, Brantley Gilbert, Ronnie Milsap, Jake Owen, Blake Shelton and Carrie Underwood.
- Miranda Lambert
- Brad Paisley
- Jake Owen
- Jason Aldean
- Lady Antebellum
- Brad Paisley & Hank Williams, Jr.
- Loyal Fan
- Zac Brown Band
- Sunny Sweeney
- Jerrod Niemann
- Josh Thompson
- Lee Brice
- Montgomery Gentry
- Justin Moore
- The Roys
- Lauren Alaina & Rodney Atkins
- Neal McCoy
- Gary Allan
- Blake Shelton
- Carrie Underwood
- The Band Perry
- Ronnie Milsap
- Jana Kramer
- Brantley Gilbert
- Oak Ridge Boys
- Jake Owen
- Carrie Underwood
- CMT Awards 2012 Best & Worst Dressed
- BEST: Carrie Underwood
- BEST: Kristen Bell
- BEST: Lady Antebellum
- BEST: Kellie Pickler
- BEST: Grace Potter
- BEST: Pistol Annies
- BEST: Lauren Alaina
- BEST: Luke & Caroline Bryan
- BEST: Ashley Greene
- BEST: Little Big Town
- BEST: The McClymonts
- WORST: Hayden Panettiere
- WORST: Scotty McCreery
- WORST: Hot Chelle Rae
- WORST: Rachel Holder
- WORST: Jake Owen (with BEST: Lacey Buchanan Owen)
- WORST: Skylar Lane
- WORST: Toby Keith
- WORST: Laura Bell Bundy
- WORST: Jennie Garth
- Brothers of the Sun Tour
- Kenny Chesney
- Tim McGraw
- Sexiest Country Album Covers
- 6. Tim McGraw, 'Greatest Hits, Volume II'
- 1. Carrie Underwood, 'Blown Away'
- 2. Shania Twain, 'Up!'
- 3. Shelby Lynne, 'Love Shelby'
- 4. Keith Urban, 'Get Closer'
- 5. Dolly Parton, 'Rainbow'
- 7. Sara Evans, 'No Place That Far'
- 8. Lorrie Morgan, 'War Paint'
- 9. Kenny Chesney, 'No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems'
- 10. Tammy Wynette, 'Let's Get Together'