7:00 p.m.: As promised, our co-hosts – Oklahoma superstar Blake Shelton and first-time ACM Awards co-host Luke Bryan are getting the show off to a musical start, performing Blake’s raucous, hip-hop-infused new single “Boys ‘Round Here.” Rocker Sheryl Crow, looking sassy in a short gold dress, are now joining them, and now here come Blake’s wife Miranda Lambert and Pistol Annie looking flat-out sexy to back him up. Country traditionalists are sure to hate it, but it’s a lot of fun.
7:03: And then Brad Paisley showed up on a small stage out in the middle of the crowd for a quick smoking guitar solo. We’re less than 5 minutes in, and they’ve already got the crowd on their collective feet. Auspicious start.
7:05: “How about a shout-out to Sherwin Williams for spray-painting Luke’s jeans on,” Blake cracks. “You know how Luke’s jeans are like a Motel 6: no ballroom.” Luke’s counters that there’s nothing up front in Blake’s jeans: “What are those, size empty?” Carrie Underwood is playfully covering her mom’s ears in the crowd.
7:07: Luke and Blake are singling out Carrie, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott and the TV shows “Duck Dynasty” and “Nashville,” but somehow all the jokes end up with them picking on each other. “And to think, I used to be the stupid one,” Blake quips. Bluke, as the ACM has dubbed them, are funny together, sure, but I miss classy-sassy Reba.
7:09: “No beer bellies, no back fat and no butt cracks,” Blake says, explaining to Luke that they don’t have to abide by quite the same red carpet rules at the ACMs as they did at the no-side-boob-allowed Grammys earlier this year.
7:10: Blake is introducing a guy “who has more sand in his shorts than a swimsuit model,” so it must be time for Kenny Chesney, and His Tanness is performing his song “Pirate Flag” in his usual white straw hat, sleeveless shirt and as-tight-as-Luke-Bryan’s-jeans jeans.
7:17: For the third year, the ACMs include the Fan Jam going on at the Orleans Arena, and Blake and Luke zipped over there during Kenny’s performance. Both arenas are packed, and the crowd over the Orleans is LOUD. Brad Paisley also has moved over there, and he’s joined by young Hunter Hayes on guitar for “Outstanding in Our Field,” which also will feature Dierks Bentley on vocals in a minute. The song, from Brad’s new album “Wheelhouse,” samples Oklahoma-bred country legend Roger Miller’s “Dang Me,” and the late, great Erick-raised singer-songwriter turned up on the big screen before the lyrics to the new song helpfully appeared. Besides featuring a couple of my favorite country guys – Brad and Dierks, plus how can you not love Hunter Hayes? – it’s a clever spin on the popular field party anthem. Read my review of “Wheelhouse,” out Tuesday, click here.
7:24: Eli Young Band introduce fellow Texan George Strait, who is aiming on scoring his 60th No. 1 hit with “Give It All We Got Tonight,” which he is now playing. His fans hope he’s going to get there before he turns 61 on May 18. The campaign is called #60for60 (http://sixtyforsixty.com). King George has the star-studded crowd on its feet again and singing along as he croons the ballad. I got to see him a couple months ago when his farewell tour came to OKC, and I can attest that he still rules. Of course, George will perform a special tribute to the late Dick Clark with Oklahoman Garth Brooks later in the show.
7:28: Thompson Square – Miami, OK, native Keifer Thompson and his lovely wife Shawna – just reminded us that fans can still vote for ACM Entertainer of the Year at http://www.cbs.com/vote. Tishomingo residents Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert are competing against each other in the top category!
7:30: By the way, we’re 30 minutes into this three-hour show and not a single award has been given out during the telecast. For the record, there were more awards given out on the red carpet: Jason Aldean, Eric Church and Luke Bryan won vocal event of the year for “The Only Way I Know.”
7:33: Singer-songwriter Gary Allan looks handsome as ever in his shiny silver jacket, and he’s introducing Eric Church, who is performing his ballad “Like Jesus Does.” Not only is Eric in black and white, we can see his eyes and his hair! He’s not wearing his usual aviator sunglasses and trucker cap. Wow. Plus, he and his backup singer (a lovely lady show in split screen in color) sound terrific doing this stripped-down acoustic guitar rendition of the heartfelt song. The crowd goes wild!
7:37: New vocal duo/group winners Florida Georgia Line, who are competing for the overall new artist award, are performing their No. 1 hit “Cruise.” Can someone please explain the appeal of these guys? They are semi-attractive, decent-but-not-great singers who seem to do nothing but Southern rock party songs. That 60-second clip of them pretty much sums everything we’ve seen from them to this point.
7:42: Beth Behrs of the CBS series “2 Broke Girls” is onstage, but her presence isn’t just network homerism: She stars in the video for Lady Antebellum’s new single “Downtown,” and that’s the poppy new single Lady A is performing right now. They’ve got the crowd up and on their feet. Hillary Scott is wearing a navy number with a filmy skirt sort of construction that somewhat conceals her baby bump. She’s the second lady I’ve seen wearing a filmy navy accessory on her outfit; the other was Shawna Thompson, who as flowing sleeves on her gown made of similar material.
7:46: San Francisco 49ers NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Michelle Stafford of “The Young and the Restless” are going to finally present the first award, vocal duo of the year. Can Thompson Square repeat as winners in this category: I hope so! Here are the nominees:
· Big & Rich
· Florida Georgia Line
· Love and Theft
· Thompson Square
7:48: Winner: Thompson Square! “Well, we want to thank God for this amazing reality we live in right now,” Keifer says, giving a shout-out to country fans, radio, their label and his parents back home.
7:50: Brantley Gilbert, the new male vocalist winner and overall new artist finalist, is crooning his song “More Than Miles.” Fun fact: While Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert are the first husband and wife to compete for the best new artist, Brantley and his fiancee Jana Kramer are believed to be the first couple dueling for best new artist.
7:57: “I have a theory that the best country music singers are from the state of Oklahoma,” Luke Bryan says, citing Garth, Reba, Ronnie Dunn, Vince Gill and Toby Keith. He then turns to Blake, “Wait a minute, you’re from Oklahoma. Damn, just when I thought I was on to something.” It’s all a silly and funny way to introduce Carrie Underwood, who’s exiting a vintage Caddy in a short black gown and black gloves on a moody, misty stage. She’s performing “Two Black Cadillacs,” which is one of my favorite songs on her “Blown Away” album, but I’m surprised. I expected her to come out belting her new single “See You Again,” which she debuted Thursday on “American Idol.”
I love the sassy wink at the end of her performance.
8:02: John Fogerty and Miranda Lambert, who have a duet on his new album, are taking the stage, and he’s playfully joking that he can’t believe he’s there with Miranda Lambert. “OK rock star,” she quips back. They’re going to present album of the year, which she won last year, provided that Miranda’s super-lowcut/peekaboo dress stays up long enough. That’s a sexy, daring, not-approved-by-the-Grammys look.
Anyway, here are the nominees:
· Blown Away – Carrie Underwood (19/Arista Nashville)
Produced by: Mark Bright
· Chief – Eric Church (EMI-Nashville)
Produced by: Jay Joyce
· Red – Taylor Swift (Big Machine Records)
Produced by: Jeff Bhasker, Nathan Chapman, Dann Huff, Jacknife Lee, Max Martin, Shellback, Taylor Swift, Butch Walker, Dan Wilson
· Tailgates & Tanlines – Luke Bryan (Capitol Nashville)
Produced by: Mark Bright, Jeff Stevens
· Tornado – Little Big Town (Capitol Nashville)
Produced by: Jay Joyce
8:03: Miranda barely had to look at the envelope to announce that Eric Church won for his excellent breakthrough “Chief.” He’s back in his sunglasses and he starts his speech “I can’t believe I just met John Fogerty. We should hang out later.” He’s thanking his “great team,” his wife and the usual suspects and giving a shout-out to his baby boy.
8:05: Luke jokes that Miranda Lambert took in a puppy she found at the side of the road, which is how she found Blake, too. It’s his way of introducing his co-host’s next performance. Blake is in a small stage out in the middle of the crowd to do a stripped-down version of his latest chart-topper “Sure Be Cool if You Did.” It’s just him and couple of lovely ladies, one playing acoustic guitar with him and his “The Voice” Season 2 contestant Gwen Sebastian backing him on vocals. As often seems to be the case at these shows, it’s the low-key, stripped-down performances that are really stealing the show.
8:09: Blake is immediately kicking it over to The Band Perry, who just released their new album “Pioneer,” and their kicking it up a notch or 10 with their rocking kiss-off “Done.” It seems like Kimberly Perry is really starting to come into her own as a superstar. Another number that got the crowd on its feet.
8:13: Speaking of young ladies coming into their own, Jana Kramer, who won new female vocalist of the year and is vying for overall new artist, is singing “Whiskey” and looking lovely in a short, sparkly, silver dress.
8:20: We’re back in the Orleans Arena, where Scotty McCreery is going to pass along the crown for new artist of the year, which I hope does not go to Florida Georgia Line:
Florida Georgia Line
8:21: Winner: Florida Georgia Line. Not a fan. They’re thanking the Lord, their team and their fans. They really need to thank those fans, who must have voted like crazy.
8:22: Jason Aldean is getting ready to perform his new song “1994.” “Back in 1994, Hunter Hayes was still breastfeeding,” Blake quips. Jason jumps out of a (presumably) mocked-up time machine to perform his latest hip-hop-infused hit while a trio of backup dancers in Daisy Dukes frolics. I do like the “John Deere Green” and Joe Diffie shout-out – good grief, I loved that song back in the day – but the novelty of Aldean’s hip-hop mash-ups has kind of worn off for me. He’s got the crowd on its feet, but I personally prefer it when he just sings.
8:25 Jake Owen, “Big Bang Theory” star Kaley Cuoco and her big hair are going to present an award. She’s wearing a very revealing gown and he’s wearing a pale plaid suit. It’s a fashion disaster, but fortunately, we’re cutting away to detail the best vocal group nominees:
· The Band Perry
· Eli Young Band
· Lady Antebellum
· Little Big Town
· Zac Brown Band
8:28: Winner: Little Big Town. Congratulations to them! I love how far they’ve come in the past couple of years. “Thank you for giving us this moment,” says . Karen Fairchild. “We’re trying not to scream.” They’re thanking their team and fans, and then Karen thanks their babies “for letting us ride your bus.” Too cute! My favorite speech so far.
8:33: “This next performer is nominated for female vocalist and entertainer of the year,” says Blake. “But the coolest thing is this morning I saw her naked.” It’s his cheeky way of introducing his bride, Miranda Lambert, who is smoking through her awesome hit “Mama’s Broken Heart,” in a short and sassy black dress. My favorite song from her album “Four the Record,” and she’s rocking it! Plus, she did her spinning and stomping dance, and I love it when she does that. She’s got the whole crowd on its feet.
8:37: Kasey Musgraves is wearing a lacy white dress that I’m kind of undecided about, while Sheryl Crow looks amazing in a figure-hugging low-cut navy column. They’re going to present song of the year, and I’m rooting for Blake and ‘Ran.
· A Woman Like You – Lee Brice
Composers: Phil Barton, Johnny Bulford, Jon Stone
Publishers: 3JB Music (BMI), Adios Pantalones (SESAC), Hears That Skyline Music (SESAC), Sixteen Stars Music (BMI), Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI)
· Even If It Breaks Your Heart – Eli Young Band
Composers: Will Hoge, Eric Paslay
Publishers: Cal IV Songs (ASCAP), Will Hoge Music (BMI)
· Over You – Miranda Lambert
Composers: Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton
Publishers: Pink Dog Publishing (BMI), Sony ATV/Tree Publishing (BMI)
· Springsteen – Eric Church
Composers: Eric Church, Jeff Hyde, Ryan Tyndell
Publishers: Bug Music (BMI), Ole Purple Cape Music (BMI), Sinnerlina (BMI), Sony ATV/Tree Publishing (BMI)
· Wanted – Hunter Hayes
Composers: Hunter Hayes, Troy Verges
Publishers: Happy Little Man Publishing (BMI), Songs From The Engine Room (BMI), Songs Of Universal Inc. (BMI)
8:38: Yay! Blake and Miranda win! They’re exchanging lots of hugs and Blake is praising his wife as a songwriter and saying he’s learned so much about himself because of her. So sweet. “Enough said. Thank y’all so much,” Miranda says. They’re all smiles. Glad there were no tears this time.
8:45: Little Big Town are performing their heartbreaker “Your Side of the Bed” with a huge bed in bed in the background. It turns out that the couple in it are actually aerial dancers. The vocals are great as usual, but I’m waiting for some sexy high-flying dancing.
8:48: Wish granted as the aerialists soar together and then get back under the covers all close. And Karen and hubby Jimi Westbrook get nice and cozy to for the sad song’s big finish.
8:49: Lucky Nancy O’Dell. She gets to share the stage with Chris Young, who looks super-hot in his purple. They’re going to present single of the year, and let’s see if “Over You” can make it two:
· Even If It Breaks Your Heart – Eli Young Band (Republic Nashville)
Produced by: Mike Wrucke
· Over You – Miranda Lambert (RCA)
Produced by: Chuck Ainlay, Frank Liddell, Glenn Worf
· Pontoon – Little Big Town (Capitol Nashville)
Produced by: Jay Joyce
· Springsteen – Eric Church (EMI-Nashville)
Produced by: Jay Joyce
· Wanted – Hunter Hayes (Atlantic/WMN)
Produced by: Hunter Hayes, Dann Huff
8:50: Winner: Yep! Miranda’s “Over You” wins again! She is going to make me cry as she gets obviously emotional as she sincerely thanks her peers for recognizing her not just as an artist and performer but also as a songwriter. So deserving.
8:57: Whoa. I hope Luke has a good joke prepped for Blake’s polka dot tie. Yikes.
“People are making such a big deal out of Tim McGraw’s new buff look, but I say he’s always had one of the best bodies in country music,” Blake says. Luke gets to supply the punchline: “her name is Faith Hill.” Faith appears in a lovely black lace dress, and she’s introducing her husband (she says she’s praising him lavishly because she’s his No. 1 fan – “and he’s my ride home”) performing his latest single “Highway Don’t Care” with Taylor Swift on vocals and Keith Urban on guitar. Good performance of one of my favorite songs on Tim’s new album – Keith is especially awesome tearing up the big guitar solo – but I really miss curly-hair Taylor Swift. Another big standing O.
9:03: LL Cool J is at the Orleans Arena getting the crowd pumped up. He’s talking about his guest spot on Brad Paisley’s new album “Wheelhouse” – they do a really thought-provoking number called “Accidental Racist” – and he’s introducing a special duet between Brad and John Mayer – two incredible triple threat singer/songwriter/guitarists – to “Beat This Summer.” It’s another of the songs on “Wheelhouse.” I just wish the sound was better since Brad’s vocals are getting a little lost in the mix. Unfortunate. There have been a few sound issues tonight, and most of them seem to be at the Fan Jam.
9:07: Ugh. It sounded like they tried to cut off the big double-guitar solo at the end with the canned music. Gotta do better.
9:08: “Ladies and gentlemen, don’t look into this man’s teeth without some form of eye protection,” Blake jokes. “He’s the best co-host I’ve had all night.” He’s introducing Luke, who emerges behind a piano and surrounded by green lasers to perform his new single “Crash My Party.” He didn’t stay behind the piano for long; he’s leaping out to show off his all-black (but still very tight) look. There’s no hip-shaking dance, since this is Luke in straight-up romance mode.
9:13: The late, great Oklahoman Paul Harvey’s “So God Made a Farmer” ad is on. I could watch it all day.
9:18: I’m so ready for Garth Brooks and George Strait to show the youngsters how it’s done!
9:19: Owasso resident Trisha Yearwood is looking lovely in her red dress, and she’s introducing Kelly Clarkson, who also looks lovely in her aqua dress, as she performs her country crossover song “Don’t Rush.” I was hoping that her duet partner Vince Gill would turn up to perform with her. Of course, I often wish for more Vince Gill in my life and particularly at country awards shows. Kelly still sounds great as usual crooning the bluesy song, but this song needs Vince. Still, it gets another standing O from the all-star crowd.
9:23: Michael Chiklis of the CBS series “Vegas” introduces the video highlight reel of the ACM’s “Vegas Goes Country Week.” Eeek … it’s a montage!
9:25: It’s back over to the Orleans Arena, where TV personality Kevin Frazier and songwriter Tori Kelly are introducing the ACM Lifting Lives spotlight performance. Jewel, who has experienced hunger and homelessness, is in a lovely white gown and strumming her guitar to croon a medley of her song “Hands” and Kelly’s “Fill a Heart.” It’s about spotlighting ConAgra Foods’ Child Hunger Ends Here program. Great cause.
9:29: Get happy, happy, happy. Willie and Korie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” are here to present the male vocalist of the year award. Go Blake!
· Jason Aldean
· Luke Bryan
· Eric Church
· Toby Keith
· Blake Shelton
9:30: Winner: Jason Aldean. Well, I am disappointed, and not just because of my blatant Blake Shelton fandom but because Jason seems more interested in attempting rap than singing these days.
9:32: Reba gets a standing O just for showing up. She’s teary eyed as she pays tribute to the late, great Dick Clark, the show’s longtime producer who died last year. “This evening two icons who have both been named artist of the decade, George Strait and Garth Brooks” – huge, well-deserving applause – “are performing together for the first time.” Yippee!
9:34: Garth, sporting a goatee along with his usual black hat, button-down shirt and jeans, sounds amazing as he croons “The Dance” as photos of Dick Clark and country stars flash onscreen. Man, I’ve missed hearing Garth sing.
9:35: Garth takes off his hat and introduce the King, and George comes out singing and strumming “The Cowboy Rides Away,” while Garth backs him on vocals. It’s amazing how easily they made this the highlight of the night. Garth takes his hat off for George, and they share a hearty handshake while the crowd continues to cheer and keeps its feet.
9:42: Luke, all dolled up in deep bluish purple suit, is introducing “the no-fly zone between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey,” Keith Urban, who is dressed in a similar apparently trendy color, and is going to present the female vocalist trophy. And he better give it to Miranda:
· Miranda Lambert
· Martina McBride
· Kacey Musgraves
· Taylor Swift
· Carrie Underwood
9:43: Yay! Winner: Miranda Lambert, who hugs her Pistol Annies bandmates and then laughs as Keith Urban playfully kneels to hand it to her. She says she thought Carrie had it this year “and she damn well deserved it.” Miranda tearfully says she realized a girlhood dream getting to hang out with Reba, Faith and Shania last night because “I will never not be a fan of those women.” Great speech.
9:45: Blake let’s out a “woo” and then introduces talented youngster Hunter Hayes, who is debuting his new single “I Want Crazy.” This kid is good, and I become a bigger fan every time I see him. He’s bouncing around the stage playing guitar and belting among a bunch of balls and showers of confetti.
9:48: Hunter can barely contain his excitement as he introduces to the stage Stevie Wonder. The legend is sitting behind his keyboard belting “You Can Feel It All Over” with Hunter singing and playing his guitar and a horn section blasting. Hunter does a great job on the second verse, too. So effervescent and fun and amazing. The whole audience is up and grooving and singing along.
9:55: Blake and Luke are back and they’re introducing Vegas performer Shania Twain, who is returning to the ACMs after “10 freaking years” as Blake puts it. She still looks sassy and youthful, and she gets a standing O. “It’s just so great to be back here at the ACMs,” she says, adding she’s honored to present the fan-voted entertainer award:
· Jason Aldean
· Luke Bryan
· Miranda Lambert
· Blake Shelton
· Taylor Swift
9:56: Winner: Luke Bryan, who immediately burst into tears. He’s still wiping them away and trying to hold it together as his peers cheer him on. Miranda even gets a little teary for him. “I don’t know what to say, guys,” Luke Bryan says, fervently thanking the fans. He says all he ever wanted to be was a country singer who got to ride a tour bus and play a new stage every night. “This is the defining moment of my life, and I will never take it for granted.”
9:59: Blake hugs him and says “it’s OK buddy,” while Luke kisses his cheek. “Congratulations, you won entertainer of the year on your first and last time to host the ACMs,” Blake jokes. After an exaggerated tossing up of his hands, Luke responds, “This guy is an amazing human being right here for seeing me through this night.”
10:01: They’re sending it back to Stevie Wonder, who’s singing “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” with Hunter Hayes on drums this time. Blake and Luke take the stage with him to lead the crowd in a big sing-along party. Faith and Shania are among the stars absolutely shaking it and singing in the crowd, while Blake and Luke start a dance contest on the stage. It’s a fun finish, if a bit odd for a country music awards show.
Well, that’s the show. It had its share of superstars and surprises, but now it’s no surprise that I have a deadline. Good night and have a great Monday!