The Academy of Country Music Awards are taking place right now (Sunday, April 1 at 8pm ET) on CBS, and we are live-blogging the show all evening. Stay tuned for award wins and regular updates — and be sure to follow all the up-to-the-second tweets from artists, DJs, and others on the ground right here on our ACM Live Twitter Wall.
(All times shown below are Eastern Time.)
The show kicks off with a big, beautiful bang, in the form of Carrie Underwood, takes the stage to kick things off with, of course, her brand new single “Good Girl.” Dressed in a pink dress, she’s already made one wardrobe change since the red carpet, where she was all in white.
And now, the hosts — Reba McEntire (going by just “Reba” these days) and Blake Shelton. Who waste no time getting into the jokes.
Watch out, because no one is safe.
Reba: “Well Blake, did you party last night?”
Blake: “I don’t remember, I was two drinks over my limit. And four drinks less than Randy Travis.” (Oops, were those boos? That didn’t go over well. Too soon?)
Blake: “Blake Shelton has become a household name.”
Reba: “Well so has Preparation H.”
“Well I didn’t get to see a lot of your early career. Until we got the History Channel!”
Taylor Swift gets a few jabs, too. Blake ribs her for (possibly) having gone on a date with Tim Tebow (“Now we know what he’s praying for”); then he notes she has her own perfume. “It’s called, I Can’t Believe I Smell This Good!” he says, miming the hands-on-face look of surprise she often shows during award wins.
The camera pans to Taylor, who gives him a bit of stink eye.
OK, enough of that. Now it’s on to some performances.
First up is Chris Young, who kicks into gear.
Then it’s The Band Perry, who literally have their name in lights — a huge white neon sign that buzzes. They perform their song “Postcard From Paris.”
We’re back after a commercial break, and now LL Cool J takes the stage. He’s here to introduce another performer. “From the movie Act of Valor,” he says, “please welcome, Keith Urban.”
After a quick clip of the film, Urban takes the stage against a dramatic backdrop showing additional scenes from the film.
Powerfully emotional, the song touches so many families, especially those who have family members and friends serving in the military.
“That shows the power of songwriting,” says Reba, who’s back on stage. And that then leads into the first award presention of the night, for Song of the Year–which is presented by Beth Behrs of Two Broke Girls.
And the ACM Song of the Year is, “Crazy Girl” by Eli Young Band!
“I have dreamed about this moment my whole life,” says Mike Eli. “I love you Kasey, and my beautiful baby daughter who’s coming soon.”
Miranda Lambert won again for ACM Album of the Year, for the third time! “Seriously?” she said, taking the stage. She may have won before, but she’s still genuinely thankful.”My albums are my babies, it’s what makes me wake up in the morning. I appreciate it so much. Thank you!”
Back to the Mandalay Bay, host Zac Brown introduces the next performer at the Fan Jam, “someone who actually plays on his own records,” he says, “Hunter Hayes!”
The 20-year-old newcoming (his baby face has gotten him compared to Justin Bieber more than once) has a clear, fine voice, and a friendly demeanor.
Now it’s Hunter’s time to give an introduction — this time, for the charity dedicated to ending childhood hunger.
Little Big Town has combined my song ‘Here’s Hope’ with John Lennon’s ‘Imagine.'” And it’s back to the MGM Grand for the next performance.
The songs starts with a capella verse from “Imagine,” then guitars come slowly in on a verse from Hunter’s song, “Here’s Hope.”
And behind him, the Clark County Children’s Choir adds a gentle, soulful depth to the chorus. We were lucky to have seen this choir rehearsing yesterday, so it’s a special moment to see these kids doing their thing live from the stage, and to have it televised around the world. (Those parents are certainly beaming hard as ever right now.”)
“We hope some day you’ll join us,” sings Little Big Town, “And the world will live as one.”
Two awards were announced during the red carpet. Toby Keith won Video of the Year for his party hit “Red Solo Cup,” and Vocal Event of the Year went to Kelly Clarkson and and Jason Aldean for “Don’t You Wanna Stay.”
And speaking of Aldean, he’s next up on the performance stage, dressed in cowboy hat, plaid short-sleeve shirt, and ripped jeans to sing his Heartland hit, “Fly Over States.”
And now for something different — here to introduce the Vocal Group of the Year award, none other than KISS! Yes, for real–and in full makeup to boot. (They arrived on the red carpet in a monster truck and proved themselves quite the country hams on the red carpet.)
Successful music groups “need that thing that WE have, chemistry. These groups have that.”
“And the winner is, Lady Antebellum!” roars Gene Simmons. That’s got to be a one-of-a-kind moment for Lady A. “This is crazy!” they say when they reach the mic, about being on stage with KISS.
Back at the Fan Jam, it’s time for a little Southern rock n’ country with Brantley Gilbert, who against a backdrop of fire and smoke, kicks out the jams on his hit, “Country Must Be Country Wide.”
It’s a shortened version of the song, but that allows Brantley to kick the spotlight back over to his buddy Eric Church, who sits alone at the piano to sing his hit, “Springsteen.”
Jake Owen and LeAnne Rimes are up next, goofing around about not winning the Lotto and also introducing the ACM Single of the Year. Which is won this year by Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean for “Don’t You Wanna Stay” — second win tonight for the song!
Next up, Blake and Reba are back. “I used to be kinda crazy,” says Blake, “sort of like…a Jet Blue pilot…” He laughs, trailing off, not sure about that joke. Reba turns to him. “OK, so before we lose another sponsor….” The crowd laughs, and she then introduces the next performers, the much-decorated group Lady Antebellum. They take the stage amidst dark, moody lights and smoke for their soft-edged tearjerker, “Dancing Away with My Heart.”
This show is moving lightning fast! Scotty McCreery is on stage to sing “Water Tower Town” in a deep, appealing baritone that belies the American Idol winner’s tender age (he’s still only 19!). He barely gets a minute or so into his song, that he then takes the mic again to introduce Brad Paisley. (Paisley didn’t walk the red carpet by the way–apparently flashbulbs and camera poses aren’t his thing.)
Two categories were based in part on fan votes this year. One of them was New Artist of the Year, and Scotty McCreery wins it (beating out Brantley Gilbert and Hunter Hayes).
The Eli Young Band stops by the press room for a chat–these guys are beaming. They’ve worked hard (ten years of clubs, bars, vans, and cheap meals) and they’ve now got a serious (and, they say, seriously heavy–“this thing weighs more than you think!”) award to back them up and take them to that next level.
Back on stage, it’s Steve Martin, joining Rascal Flatts on stage for their duet, “Banjo.”
And after that, Reba and Blake return for a minute. “OK the big moment is here, Toby Keith is going to sing ‘Red Solo Cup.'”
Blake: That song has got to be the biggest surprise hit since Osamaa Bin Laden said, “Who is it? Helloooo?”
Toby comes in through the crowd, who are all sporting, you guessed it, red Solo cups in hand. Wait, was that Carrot Top in the crowd? Yes it was.
“Dude, you’re not just a cup, you’re my friend,” sings Toby. OK, “let’s have a party!” It’s a goofball song, everyone agrees (Keith Urban is shown laughing it up), and nothing wrong with that.
Marc Anthony comes on stage (he’s set to duet with Sara Evans during the upcoming Lionel Richie TV special on April 13), and he’s here to introduce, you guessed it, Sara Evans. (Who, by the way, wore one of the more eye-grabbing dresses on the red carpet.)
Back together on stage (and soon on stages all summer long for their Brothers of the Sun Tour) are country superstars Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw. It’s a big, loud centerpiece to the show’s performance schedule. Lights flash, guitars go wild, and the two country vets strut the stage like they own it. Everyone is out of their seat and dancing along–even Taylor Swift.
Scott McCreery stops by backstage to talk about his win tonight. He also spends some time describing what it’s like still being in high school yet also performing on national stages (he says he wants to stay “home” for now, not move to Nashville, because he’s still got a lot to learn and wants to ensure his friends and family he’s still the guy they’ve always known and loved).
On the ACM Stage, it’s another win for Miranda Lambert — Female Vocalist of the Year!
And after a commercial break, Blake takes the mic for a few touching words about his wife (Miranda), who then steps up to sing the heart-wrenching tearjerker “Over You.”
Who should stop by in the middle of Miranda’s song? None other than Toby Keith. And yes, he had a red Solo cup in hand. “What’s in the cup?” someone asks. “Wild Shot, my premium Mezcal,” he replies. His own brand.
He talks about the viral success of the video, something that just could never have been manufactured.”Once in a while you rope a big steer like that, and you just hang on and ride,” he says. He told a story of playing in Europe, and fans had Solo cups lined up–which weren’t even sold in Europe. So they turned to the Internet to get some for the show.
Toby says he’s won a bunch of video awards, but he says, “It’s all been through our antics, and showing our personalties and having fun.” And he talks about how this is also his first-ever crossover hit. “I’ve got 80 million spins as a songwriter, and this is my only crossover hit. I’m always looked on as, ‘he’s too country.'” The song, though, he says “deserves it” (the crossover success).
Back in the Arena, Bono introduced Dierks Bentley, who took the stage to sing “Home.”
And then, one of the most anticipated performances of the night, the song “Marry Me,” a duet between Martina McBride and Train’s Pat Monahan. And not only that, but a couple was literally married on stage during the song’s performance, the audio crossfading back and forth between the song and the ceremony.
Luke Bryan performs, his energy taking him all over the stage, and leaving some heat behind. Even Reba seems to feel it. “Whew!”
But then she turns to the business at hand. “Our next artist is having quite a year,” Reba says. Not only does she have a song in Hunger Games, a voice role on The Lorax, she won 11 music awards last year. Of course Reba is talking about Taylor Swift, who takes the stage to present the Male Vocalist of the Year award. And the winner is Blake Shelton! Quite a year, it seems, for Blake and Miranda.
Backstage we get a visit from Thompson Square (Shawna and Keifer Thompson), who won Vocal Duo of the Year. The humble, nice couple appear genuinely grateful for the attention.
What’s it mean to share an award like this with a spouse? Very special, of course, says Shawna. “This wouldn’t be fun at all if she wasn’t here,” says Keifer.
And as for the award, to say it was a surprise is an understatement. “Sugarland is very hard to overcome,” says Keifer of one of the group’s fellow nominees. “You’ve got Sugarland and Brooks and Dunn, the only people who’ve won it since 1991. So we were very much the underdog.” As for what’s next, they’ve got “a bunch of songs together” for a new album, which is “going to be awesome.”
Meanwhile, on stage, it’s time for the big award of the night, Entertainer of the Year. And who wins this year? That’s right, Taylor Swift!
The night wraps with another much-anticipated duet between Lionel Richie and Blake Shelton, performing their version of Richie’s song “You Are.”
OK, that was awesome, right? This ACM award show was one big, wild ride that was full of surprises and offered nonstop musical energy.
Congrats to all the nominees and the winners tonight!
More ACM info:
– Kurt Wolff, CBS Local