Following a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, CMA Fest, the longest-running country music festival in the world, returned to Nashville June 9 - 12. The 49th edition of four days of country music kicked off with more than 260 artists and an estimated 80,000 fans under sunny skies and hot temperatures across eight stages morning, noon and night.
Saturday night (June 11) at Nissan Stadium was the festival’s crescendo as it included the current CMA Entertainer of the Year, Luke Combs, along with two-time entertainer of the year, Luke Bryan, five-time female vocalist of the year, Carrie Underwood, and four-time vocal duo of the year, Brothers Osborne.
To begin the evening, Randy Houser took the stage and belted out four songs; “How Country Feels,” “Like A Cowboy,” “Note to Self”, and he finished with “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight”.
Brothers Osborne performed an energetic set of their popular hits, but everyone will be talking about the giant, dancing robotic skeletons that roamed the stage appropriately for “Skeletons” mid-way through their set. John had extended guitar solos for “Shoot Me Straight” and “Ain’t My Fault” while T.J. motivated giant sing-a-longs with the crowd. The setlist began with “Shoot Me Straight” followed by “I’m Not for Everyone”, “Stay a Little Longer”, “Skeletons”, “All Night” and “Ain’t My Fault”.
After Brothers Osborne’s performance, the crowd was directed to a new platform in the stadium where Frank Ray and Mitchell Tenpenny gave the small stage a big sound. They sang three songs each and the crowd was then directed back to the main stage where current CMA entertainer of the year, Luke Combs, performed all the hits that got him where he is today. He reminisced about playing his breakthrough single, "Hurricane," in 2016 to 83 people in Athens, Georgia, and then fast-forwarded to his current situation of more than 60,000 fans singing along to most of his tunes today. But Combs got a bit emotional when he shared that CMA Fest 2022 would be his last performance before he becomes a dad. Combs' wife, Nicole, gave birth to their son, Tex, just ten days later. Combs also debuted his latest single, “The Kind of Love we Make” for the first time, and ended with a crowd-pleasing, anthem-like “Beer Never Broke My Heart” to which everyone sang in unison. Combs’ setlist was as follows: “When It Rains It Pours”, “Cold as You”, “The Kind of Love We Make”, Doin’ This”, “Beautiful Crazy”, “She Got the Best of Me”, “Lovin’ On You”, “Hurricane”, and “Beer Never Broke My Heart”.
Shortly thereafter, Luke Bryan hit the stage with nine of his biggest songs. He began with “I Don’t Want This Night to End” and “Kick the Dust Up” before he went to the archives with “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye”. The crowd sang along to last year’s summer hit, “One Margarita”, before he did a shot of tequila from a tiny red cup as he sang “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day”. He slowed things down with “Crash My Party” and the emotional “Drink A Beer” where he asked to have the lights turned down so he could sing it solely by cellphone optics.. He concluded his set with “Knockin’ Boots” and the ever-popular “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)” and left the crowd wanting more.
However, the finale belonged to Carrie Underwood who came out in thigh-high bedazzled boots, denim daisy dukes and a red sparkly top. Her voice was as powerful as ever as she began with “Church Bells”. The rest of her set was as follows: “Good Girl”, “Undo It”, “Ghost Story”, “Wasted”, “Jesus, Take the Wheel/How Great Thou Art”, “Denim & Rhinestones”, “Blown Away”, “Last Name” and her final song was “Before He Cheats”.
Unlike other festivals, CMA Fest performers donate their time to perform so ticket proceeds can directly benefit high-quality music education initiatives across the country through the CMA Foundation.
Next year’s CMA Fest will return for its 50th anniversary and takes place in Nashville June 8-11, 2023.
“CMA Fest,” the three-hour primetime television special hosted by Dierks Bentley and Elle King, airs Wednesday, August 3 at 8/7c on ABC.
The Country Music Association established the CMA Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), in 2011 to leverage strategic partnerships, professional development for qualified music teachers, and grant distribution to improve and withstand equitable music education programs for all students nationwide. Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, the CMA Foundation focuses on providing sustainability, advocacy, and accountability within music education by investing in various resources for students, schools, and communities.