8:01 p.m.: Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan co-host the Academy of Country Music awards, shouting at the intro to tell us that Eric Church with help from Keith Urban will give "Pledge Allegiance to the Hag."
8:03 p.m. - Church and Urban leave the stage with Urban giving a few bars of "Mama Tried." Funny, but country has so little to do with the Hag these days. They soon play "Raise 'Em Up," Urban's current single. Kind of a low key, not bad version.
8:09 p.m.: ACMs set Guinness World Record - something like most attended music awards of all time. Shelton predictably says people should get a drink and drown their award in suds. Brooks & Dunn, Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks and Reba get introduced. PLUS George Strait who gets a standing O. "The King of Country Music," says Bryan.
8:10 p.m. - Strait is now on stage. The real deal of country music with "All My Exes Live in Texas" before singing his brand new single "Let It Go." He's slightly slightly pitchy, but it's good to hear from him, of course. He looks his age, but can teach these young'uns about country. Hey, at least he's not using Autotune either :)
8:15 p.m. - Quite glad that Strait gets the attention so early on. He gets an Academy Milestone honor award."
"I just want to say thank you to the ACM for having me back all of these years," said Strait before thanking fans, radio, his band and "to all you guys for coming tonight." Nothing profound from Strait, just regular set of thanks.
8:17 pm. - how does Big & Rich get such a prominent slot aside some (Ford?) truck giving an intro for something I've already forgotten about? They're not exactly so big these days. Interesting choices thus far.
8:22 p.m. - Shelton and Bryan show off a selfie. Whoopdeedoo!
8:23 p.m. - Bro country purveyors Florida Georgia Line are on "Sippin' on Fire," a catchy song. Guess what? They're surrounding by lots of flames.
8:26 p.m. - Lee Brice sings a snippet of "Forever and Ever Amen" with acoustic guitar in hand. Very awesome though, Randy Travis is in the house in an "amazing comeback" said Brice. Travis looks a bit stiff I will say and not like you think of him looking. Great that he's there though!
8:29 p.m. - Miranda Lambert wins first on camera award - Song of the Year - "Automatic." "It's good to be home tonight," said Lambert, before thanking her co-writers, Natalie Hemby and Nicole Galyon. "I hope I can be your Dean Dillon because you're my George Strait," said Hemby. Good line.
8:40 p.m. or so - Dierks Bentley sings "Riser," building nicely.
8:44 p.m. - Florida Georgia Line wins Vocal Duo of the Year. No surprise at all. They thank their label, band, crew, wife, fiance, radio and fans.
8:47 p.m. - Martina McBride sings "Independence Day." Not sure why they're going back in time, but still a super song. The crowd kicks in to sing along including of course Taylor Swift who seems to know every word to anyone's song. (that's praise, folks! I give her a lot of credit for that). Still a powerful song years later, and McBride belts it out.
8:51 p.m. - A thought... I guess Taylor Swift is not totally abandoning country since she's here. If memory serves right, she wasn't at the Country Music Awards in November just after releasing "1989." Perhaps she has enough distance now.
8:55 p.m. - Luke Bryan rocks out on "I See You." Not hearing anything that sounds particularly country in this song at all. Loud drums and guitar. No surprise. I know people talk about big tent country and all, but can someone please tell what makes this a country music song except Luke Bryan sings it?
8:59 p.m. - Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon pump their upcoming movie, "Hot Pursuit," before introducing Lambert, who wrote a song for the flick. She then sings "Mama's Broken Heart" and "Little Red Wagon." Lambert grows more and more comfy as a performer. She turns in hot performances of both songs. Sings with more confidence than ever. Song goes forever, which it deserves. Different sounding than a lot of the material out there. Not exactly country either I would say, but got a raw, rootsy sound at least.
9:05 p.m. - Miranda Lambert receives Milestone trophy as most honored female in history of ACMs. "I have no idea why I'm up here receiving this," she said, referring to many other female artists.
9:07 p.m. - Little Big Town takes Vocal Group of the Year. "This is Alabama, this is the inspiration for everything we wanted to be right here," said Karen Fairchild. She proceeded to thank Texas for giving them big hair and George Strait.
9:15 p.m. or so - Jason Aldean sings snippets of some of his songs including "Hicktown,""She's Country" and "My Kinda Party."
9:20 p.m. or so - A giddy Kelly Clarkson comes out to say how she met Reba McEntire nine years ago and now they're family. "I have the coolest mother in law in the world, and you all can suck it," she laughs. The thing I like about Clarkson is that she's the real deal.
9:23 p.m. - Reba comes out to sing a few snippets of her songs before launching into a full version of "Going Out Like that," her current single. She's in real good vocal form, sounds good, modern sounding of course, but she's got it still. McEntire receives an ACM 50th anniversary honor as well. She thanks for the fans and said she wouldn't want to be there without them.
9:30 p.m. or so - Little Big Town turns in a strong performance of "Girl Crush," a throwback song with Karen Fairchild on lead vocals. Sounds real good. Not sure how controversial it is,but whatever.
9:35 p.m. - Cole Swindell sings "Ain't Worth the Whiskey" as one of the three ACM New Artist Award nominees.
9:39 p.m. - Taylor Swift gets a Milestone award from her mom, who has cancer. Swift disclosed that about 10 days ago and asked for support from her fans. She speaks like a true mother praising her daughter for being someone with very few friends to maturing. Plus having a "voice against those who hate." Extremely heartfelt speech.
9:43 p.m. - Taylor Swift receives the Milestone award. She thanks the country music community for accepting her non-country disc. "I learned what hard work is from my heroes who are sitting here" along with thanking country music for showing how to treat others. She avoids talking about her mom's comments - too emotional no doubt.
9:49 p.m. - Thomas Rhett sings some of his current single "Make Me Wanna" as one of three nominees for Best New Artist. Soulful sounding. Not bad. Just didn't find him particularly "country" when I saw him in concert.
9:51 p.m. - Blake Shelton comes out to sing his new single "Sangria." Not bad, but kind of an ordinary performance of a mid-tempo song. Not particularly captivating.
10 p.m. or so - Rascal Flatts sings with Christina Aguilera on "Shotgun," her song, and "Riot,' theirs. Not a bad mash-up of the two.
10:06 p.m. - Miranda Lambert wins Album of the Year for "Platinum." "That was a tough one man. I love all of those albums so much> I love them all," said Lambert. This is no surprise. Great album, her best. I did like Eric Church's "The Outsiders" as well.
10:08 p.m. - Garth Brooks to receive a Milestone award. Taylor Kile, the widow of "American Sniper" Chris Kile comes out to talk about those who help protect others. They introduce Brooks.
10:10 p.m. - Brooks turns in a good performance of the big sounding "All American Kid" from the new disc, "Man Against Machine," as military members walk down the aisles towards the stage to big applause.
10:14 p.m. - Garth thanks all of those "protecting our freedom" in the military. "This has been a big emotional day for my home state of Oklahoma," he said. "I want to send this back to them." He was referring to the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. Nice tribute there as well.
10:16 p.m. - New Artist of the Year is given out by Dwight Yoakam and Justin Moore to Cole Swindell. He's pumped and hugs Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line on his way to the stage. "Oh uh, I'm on," said Swindell. "Fans, I told you I wanted to thank you from Arlington, Texas. Thank you so much for giving this to me." This is a big upset to me. I thought for sure Sam Hunt would win this one no problem. Perhaps the ACM voters do not consider Hunt to be sufficiently country? They would not be the first.
10:24 p.m. - Female Vocalist of the Year - Miranda Lambert, of course. "I don't even realize what's even happening tonight," she said. "I love my job so much. I will never not my job." She talked of her love for the fans.
10:25 p.m. or so - Kenny Chesney sings an old hit "Young" and his new single "Wild Child." He then receives a Milestone honor as the first fan voted Entertainer of the Year. "To be part of all of this was more than a kid from east Tennessee could dream of," he said. Like many others, he, too, thanked the fans. His are devoted for sure.
10:42 p.m. - Lady Antebellum sings latest single "Long Stretch of Love." Peppy, nice three-part vocals but like some of the others, not sure where this comes off as country.
10:45 p.m. - Lee Brice wins Single Record of the Year for "I Don't Dance." "This is my first time in my moment like this, and I just have to thank you my wife for inspiring the first dance at our wedding." He wrote and produced the song. "This is insane," he said. "Thank you so much." I got to say...any time Lambert doesn't win, it seems like an upset. I thought she would win for "Automatic."
10:47 p.m. - Dan + Shay sing with Nick Jonas, a Texas native, of Jonas Brothers fame. "Jealous" and "Chains." What's the point? Not sure what Dan + Shay get out of this. Not needed.
10:57 p.m. - Jason Aldean wins Male Vocalist honor. Nice win."I'm really stunned. I don't want else to say. This is three years in a row." He received the award from Trisha Yearwood and pointed out how his first show was opening for her in their home state of Georgia when he was 16.
11:01 p.m. - Alan Jackson sings "Where Were You" on the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings. heartfelt, tender delivery of a song in reality written in reaction to the 2001 World Trade Center attack. Well done by AJ.
11:11 p.m. - Brad Paisley starts off on acoustic singing his new single "Crushin' It." He quickly, literally, throws it away and kicks into gear with his electric axe. Nicely done song (though not big on the slight hip hope feel at one point).
11:18 - Brooks & Dunn sing "My Maria" in their reunion performance. Real nice sounding take on their hit cover of the BW Stevenson song. Ronnie Dunn can hit the high notes no problem. They also receive a Milestone award from the ACMs.
11:27 p.m. - Luke Bryan wins the big one - Entertainer of the Year. "What an amazing night to be here in Texas with so many heroes who got awarded tonight." What? No Miranda Lambert. Hard to believe. Bryan and Shelton give big hugs to each other. Interesting (not being cynical) in a funny way because Bryan took the award from Shelton's wife.
11:28 p.m. - Brad Paisley and Darius Rucker end the night with a bluesy take on "Let the Good Times Roll." Nice job.