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CMA Fest’s Friday Night Nissan Stadium Shows: 5 Top Moments

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CMA Fest’s Friday Night Nissan Stadium Shows: 5 Top Moments

Shortly into his set at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium on Friday evening (June 7), two-time CMA Award winner Cody Johnson issued a challenge to the crowd with one simple question: “Are you ready for some country music tonight?”

For more than three hours, approximately 70,000 fans who filled the stadium answered that question with a resounding “Yes.” As the four-day country music extravaganza CMA Fest reached its halfway point, Friday night’s lineup at Nissan Stadium offered a triple shot of Texas country, thanks to a lineup that included Johnson, Parker McCollum and Jon Pardi.

Female artists also put on a strong show Friday night, with the lineup featuring “Redneck Woman” herself, Gretchen Wilson, as well as “Austin” hitmaker Dasha, singer-songwriter K. Michelle’s soulful set on the platform stage, and Kelsea Ballerini , who just announced her additional gig as a coach on The Voice.

As the cavalcade of artists took the stage, night two at Nissan Stadium showcased the enduring economic power and international appeal of the country music industry, drawing die-hard country music fans from all 50 states and countless countries. Night two also highlighted the power of songs that cut to the core of deep-seated emotions – whether heartbreak, remorse, love or celebration – to fuel careers with fans and headline status.

Throughout the evening, the songs that flowed from the two stages highlighted enduring country classics, some of today’s biggest hits, party-ready fare and moments of self-reflection and heartbreak – sometimes packing those spectrum-spanning emotions into a single song.

As the clock reached midnight, two-time CMA of the Year winner Luke Bryan launched his show and asked the audience, “Ready to carry this over to the next morning?” He then filled his midnight set with a string of hits he’d collected over the past decade, including “My Kind of Night” and “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Everyday.” The bulk of the concertgoers stayed ready to continue an already hour-long, music-filled day in downtown Nashville into the wee hours at Nissan Stadium.

Here we look at five top moments from night two of CMA Fest.

• **Dasha takes Nashville to “Austin”**

Dasha played her first stadium performance on Friday evening and she made the most of it by delivering a short but impressive two-song performance on the platform stage, surrounded by spectators. She offered up her global hit ‘Austin’, delivering a challenging line-dance groove, perfect for a stadium full of boot-wearing revelers.

“I wrote this song last year and it changed my life,” Dasha said. Indeed.

• **Jon Pardi and Clint Black offer a shot of ’90s country**

Pardi, who comes from Texas, strutted across the enormous stage with swagger on Friday evening. He launched into hits like ‘Dirt on My Boots’, ‘Head Over Boots’ and ‘Heartache on the Dance Floor’, enhanced by thumping rock guitar and sonic violin records. Pardi’s own music showcases his ’80s and ’90s country inspirations, but his set got an extra shot of ’90s country bona fides when he welcomed guitarist-vocalist-songwriter and four-time CMA Award winner Clint Black to the stage. , which turned the crowd’s excitement up a notch. Calling Black “one of my heroes,” Pardi joined Black for “Killin’ Time,” with the crowd singing along as if the heartbreaking hit had been released in recent years, not more than thirty years ago.

• **Little Big Town brings a ‘crush’ to CMA Fest**

Celebrating 25 years as a group this year, Little Big Town made a surprise appearance on Friday night, delivering a moment of sultry angst as they performed their hit “Girl Crush.” Flanked by her bandmates Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Philip Sweet, Karen Fairchild delivered a flawlessly pleading lead vocal, enhanced by the group’s signature swirl of tightly stacked harmonies. Although their performance at Nissan Stadium on Friday evening consisted of just one song, this group is always a standout.

• **Kelsea Ballerini’s Cathartic Songs Provide a Fan Bonding Moment**

Appearing on the Nissan Stadium main stage against a backdrop of columns of lights, Ballerini took fans on a trip down memory lane during the first moments of her set with a trio of songs from her first album: ‘Love Me Like You Mean It’, ‘Dibs’ and ‘Yes boy.’ From there, the Knoxville, Tennessee, native showcased a decade of artistic growth with songs from her recent project Rolling Up the Welcome Mat.

Calling her life “unrecognizable” compared to what it was two years ago, she acknowledged that she had “some hard things to go through,” but insisted, “I’ve never been more proud to be exactly where I now am.’

“We’re within earshot of the penthouse,” she hinted, offering an emotionally cathartic performance of songs from that Grammy-nominated set, starting with breakup anthem “Penthouse.” When she arrived at the crucial lyric ‘You got half’, the audience shouted with excitement, as they did when she offered the lyrics to the ‘healed version’ of the song, while women in the crowd cheered for the liberating lyric ‘Now I don’t care where you sleep.” She offered up a double set of heartbreaking songs with the blistering shout-out “Blindsided,” as the audience poured its pain and venom into the sarcastic line “Yeah, sure, okay.”

“Well, that was therapy,” she joked.

• **Cody Johnson brings Texas to Tennessee, teams with Jelly Roll**

Texas native Johnson launched his set with a tribute to the Lone Star State in “That’s Texas,” turning Nissan Stadium into a giant honky-tonk for the evening. A tribute to The Charlie Daniels Band followed via a rendition of ‘Long Haired Country Boy’ (a staple of Johnson’s live show), as well as renditions of his current single, the smash ballad ‘Dirt Cheap’, and a banging performance of his first Billboard Country Airplay #1, “‘Til You Can’t.”

But one of the defining moments of Johnson’s set came when he teamed up with four-time Country Airplay chart-topper Jelly Roll for their heartbreaking ballad of regret that leads to vital life changes on “Whiskey Bent.” Solid songcraft, plus two of country music’s most expressive, unfiltered vocalists made for one of the evening’s most captivating moments.