The prelims are over fortunately. time for the real deal. It's 8:00 p.m. and Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan are out there. Shelton is dishing out the lead song fro his new disc, Boy's 'Round Here, with Bryan helping out. Good song really. No baseball hat for Bryan. That's a surprise. Sheryl Crow does her stuff. Good song for her because it kind of has that rootsy feel.
Pistol Annies are out. Glad to see they're an on-going entity and not a one off. Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley are not second fiddle to leather dressed Miranda Lambert.
Brad Paisley makes his way through the crowd with his axe in tow. Of course, he kicks on guitar. Good beginning for the show.
8:05 p.m.: Bryan: "Blake's jeans...nothing upfront." Some raunchy, easy target jokes dealing with Shelton's private parts. Cheap humor. Oh well.
Shelton said in reality they were good friends."Luke and I used to be good buddies," Shelton said.
Now, they're going crowd pointing to Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood (joking about her giving up her career if husband Mike Fischer asked her to), Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum of course about being pregnant.
And now they're going nutty about "the folks from Duck Dynasty." "Which one of them is Zac Brown," asked Bryan.
8:10 p.m.: Kenny Chesney gets out on stage with a bunch of pirate flags near the stage. He's doing Pirate Flag, his hit single. Not all that country.
8:17 p.m.: Bryan and Shelton go next door (I think) to the Orleans Arena for the third annual Fan Jam. Paisley and Dierks Bentley are out with a song from "Wheelhouse," the new Paisley disc out on Tuesday. Hunter Hayes is out there also on guitar. The fiddler looks about 15 years old. Playing Outstanding in Our Field. Good take on the song. Hayes is quite good on guitar. Nice seeing them going at it. Fun song like you'd expect from Paisley, but that's not how the album is. Far more serious (for the most part).
8:23 p.m.: Eli Young Band introduces George Strait singing Give It All We Got Tonight. Got to say that Strait, who I like a lot, sounds a bit rough. Off in a few spots. Glad to see Strait and Paisley get early very prominent spots. Kix Brooks was singing along from the crowd.
8:33 p.m. Gary Allan introduces Eric Church to sing Just Like Jesus Does. I don't get why Allan's not more popular. Maybe because he doesn't come off like the good ole boys like Shelton and Bryan? Shelton's in black and white on solo acoustic singing with his eyes closed, a fuller beard and no baseball hat What gives here with the lack of baseball hats tonight? It used to be you couldn't be on these shows with a cowboy hat? He's backed by a lone back-up singer. Sounds nice & gets to the root of the words keeping it real simple.
But is the song making like no matter what the guy does, he'll always be forgiven by the woman? Nice thought, but somehow the mixture of religious imagery and the song doesn't quite work for me. Nice performance though. These songs tonight, thus far at least, aren't over the top. Let's hope it stays that way.
8:37 p.m.: Florida Georgia Line goes on with Cruise, which is really more of a summer song. Catchy stuff. Lot of rock in the song. They don't get to sing the whole thing for some reason. Did a good job while it lasted.
8:39 p.m. I thought this is an awards show. Thus far, amount of awards handed out = ZERO. They handed out a few on the red carpet though.
8:43 p.m.: Lady Antebellum sings its breezy, catchy hit single Downtown. Bit of a funky, soulful feel to the song with a good amount of organ, and not a lot of country elements either. Hillary Scott sounds real good.
8:47 p.m.: 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick is out there. Still don't get what the hell happened with the play calling at the end of the Super Bowl. He doesn't either probably.
8:48 p.m.: Vocal duo of the Year; Thompson Square. Finally an award is handed out. Not a huge surprise. "Alright," said Keifer. "We want to thank God, and this amazing reality we live in now." He thanked the fans, mom and dad and the usual folks. Okay nothing too exciting. "This is awesome," he said.
8:50 p.m.: Brantley Gilbert is at the Orleans singing. He has a baseball hat. Not even advertising anything, like a sponsor. It's all black. Rocks pretty much with a lot of guitar. Vocals are on the softer side. Gets to sing a bit of the song. I guess that's going to be the trend with some of this tonight.
8:52 p.m.: Got to fit the ads in, so here we go.
8:57 p.m. Luke Bryan; I have a theory that the best country music singers are from Oklahoma" giving a list of Garth Brooks, Reba, Toby Keith and "somehow" forgetting Blake Shelton, standing right next to him. "I thought I was onto something," said Bryan. Too corny.
8:58 p.m.: Carrie Underwood is out going on stage with an old black Cadillac, belting out Two Black Cadillacs, strong song from her disc.
9:03 p.m.: Album of the Year:Eric Church - Chief. "Okay Church has his shades back on. "I can't believe I just met John Fogerty," said Church, who handed out the award with Miranda Lambert. He thanked his wife, family and his backing crew. "They all believe in the music, and that's what this is all about."
9:05 p.m.: Shelton is out there, serious on a side stage in the crowd on acoustic with one female singer on Sure Be Cool If You Did, his number one hit. Real nice sounding. Keeping it simple.
9:09 p.m.: The Band Perry - rocking out. Get your hands in the air," Kimberly shouts. She's bringing the energy with her brothers on their new single Done. Catchy song, but it rocks way too much. You can see it's a good concert singalong. Very rehearsed band performance jumping up and down. I'll give them some slack. It is national TV, a huge audience, and they got to make the impression they can with a brand new CD out last week. "Get your hands up in the air," Kimberly said near the end. Real good energy.
9:13 p.m.: Jana Kramer gets to sing a bit of her new single Whiskey. Not the greatest vocals on this. I've heard her live, and she sounded better. At least you can hear some mandolin. Not sure I've heard that tonight.
9:20 p.m.: New Artist of the Year:Florida Georgia Line. Not a surprise here. No doubt they would take it over Jana Kramer. Brantley Gilbert posed more of a problem, but FGL has had a few hits. They thanked "the Lord,..our amazing fans, country radio" before thanking the usual. Lots of tattoos on those guys. Who is who anyway? (Okay, I know I can check easily on line)
9:22 p.m. They talk about Jason Aldean singing 1994. Shelton probably has the best line of the night. "Back in 1994, Hunter Hayes was still breast feeding." Aldean gets right into it. I don't get the "Joe Diffie' reference either. Doesn't fit with his music at all. He didn't rock. He even did a bluegrass disc a few years ago.
9:27 p.m.: Vocal Group of the Year:Little Big Town. Life is good for this quartet. I'd say it's an upset over The Band Perry and Lady Antebellum. "Thank you for giving us this moment," said Karen Fairchild. They thanked the usual - fans, family, their label, etc. When's someone going to say something that matters? Not knocking LBT in particular. I like them. Real fine in concert.
9:34 p.m.: Miranda Lambert out to sing her hit Mama's Broken Heart. Excellent song from Kacey Musgraves. Lambert is a bit off at the outset and picks it up. She hasn't been the best singer at these shows it seems to me although I like her CDs a lot. Her Pistol Annies' friends are singing along with her. Not a surprise.
9:38 p.m.: Song of the year:"Over You" by Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton. "I used to think I was a decent songwriter until I started hanging around her, and she taught how me to write a good song. I love you baby," Shelton said, giving Lambert a hug and kiss. The guy seems genuinely excited to win these awards for all of his joking. It is good validation after all of what you're doing. And it's a real good, heartfelt song to say the least. Nice going.
P.m.9:46 p.m. Little Big Town turns in a heartfelt Your Side of the Bed. Nice singing, but cheesy background of couple in bed behind them. Glad they did it because it's a Lori McKenna song
9:51 p.m. or so: Single Record of the year:Miranda Lambert - Over You. "Two's better than one," Lambert said. "I always bawl, so I was trying to hold it together. As a songwriter, having a song and your lyrics being recognized by your peers is about as good as it gets...Thank you for accepting me as a songwriter and not just a singer." Lambert looked she was about to cry as her eyes welled up. Can't blame her.
9:57 p.m.: Tim McGraw is out with Taylor Swift on backing vocals and Keith Urban on guitar for Highway Don't Care, his new hit single. Not the most exciting single, but they do a good job. Swift does good job on vocals. Urban sounds real good on guitar.
10:03 p.m.: LL Cool J introduces Brad Paisley. Makes sense because LL Cool J and BP have a song out Tuesday on "Wheelhouse" about racial relations. not a typical BP song, but interesting look at southern lifestyle and race. BP is out there with John Mayer (not surprised Taylor Swift isn't out there) on Beat This Summer. Paisley's vocals did not sound as strong as on the Cd. Nice guitar work from Mayer. Not sure why he's on a country show.
10:09 p.m.: Luke Bryan is singing his new single Crash My Party. He starts off on piano. Not all that country, which is no surprise. Vocals are a bit thin. He abandons the ivories to come out front. Lots of green lasers going off. Nice effect.Mid-tempo song with a bigger sound. Another hit one would suspect.
10:18 p.m. or thereabouts: Trisha Yearwood, a very slimmed down TY, introduces Kelly Clarkson for Don't Rush. She sings well as usual and is very soulful. Not all that country save for some steely guitar. Clarkson is underrated. Check her out in concert if you can.
10:25 p.m.: Jewl is singing a few songs about making the world better, one of hers and one by Tori Kelly, who's touring to fight hunger.
10:29 p.m.: Male vocalist: Jason Aldean. "Oh man," said Aldean. "This is really surprising. I'm a big fan and friends with everyone else in this category...I'm glad I get to sing for a living. I'm glad you dig it."
10:31 p.m.: Reba gets a big big hand when she comes out. Kind of surprised.
10:33 p.m.: Garth Brooks comes out with goatee and black cowboy hat to sing a great version of The Dance, a tribute to Dick Clark. Great song as usual. When's he hitting the road already? He soon introduced Strait, the first time the two have ever performed together. Strait came out with acoustic guitar in hand and a black cowboy hat. Nice trad country song of The Cowboy Rides Away.
10:43 p.m.: "I thought for sure Carrie had it this year, and she sure deserved it," Lambert said. Lambert talked about living her dream last night of seeing Reba McEntire, Faith Hill and Kelly Clarkson and started crying. That's Lambert for you. She beat out Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. Nice night for Lambert, I'd say.
10:45 p.m.: Hunter Hayes debuts new single I Want Crazy. Energetic. Not bad.
10:48 p.m.: Hayes introduces Stevie Wonder, who does Sir Duke with a soulful Hayes helping out on vocals, taking a few stanzas and sounding good. Nice horns section also. Pistol Annies are sure getting a lot of face time tonight. Are they the next superstars?
10:55 p.m. Shania Twain comes out to give out Entertainer of the Year. "It's so great to be here after all these years," said Twain, dressed in high black boots and a black dress.
10:55 p.m.Entertainer:Luke Bryan. He was overcome with emotion and leaned over and cried. The crowd called: Luke as Bryan had tears. "This is...ah...I don't know what to say guys," he said. "Thank you guys so much. Fans for doing this to me. Thank you so much for making my life what it is, What I always wanted to be was a country singer that showed up on a tour bus and played music every night."
"Every time I set on stage it is a blessing for me to play for fans," he said. "This is defining moment of my life. It means so much, and I will never take it for granted."
Bryan then hugged Shelton, who kept saying, "It's okay buddy. It's okay." You won entertainer of the year in your first and last year of co-hosting."
Bryan and Shelton then introduced Wonder again to close with Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours. Real nice, rousing version and strong close. Bryan and Shelton help out a bit. Perfect vehicle for the soulful side of Bryan,but neither does a tremendous amount. And not all that country either of course.
That's a wrap folks. Nice night of performances really. Most were strong. More of a concert than an awards show though.