Keith Urban & Chris Stapleton Win Big At The CMAs

November 15, 2018

Larry McCormack / tennessean.com

The 52nd Annual CMA Awards are in the books, with Keith Urban taking home the night’s top prize, Entertainer of the Year for the second time time. While Keith won the big award, it was Chris Stapleton who took home the most trophies, winning four, including Male Vocalist of the Year for a fourth time, and Single and Song of the Year for “Broken Halos.” Meanwhile, it was also a big night for Kacey Musgraves, who took home the trophy for Album of the Year for “Golden Hour,” Carrie Underwoodwon her fifth Female Vocalist of the Year award, Brothers Osborne won Vocal Duo of the Year and Old Dominion nabbed Vocal Group of the Year. 

The show opened on a somber note with Garth Brooks, surrounded by a sea of cellphone lights, dedicating the show to the 12 people who died in the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California. "Let the music unite us with love in their enduring memory,” he said. “So please, join me now in a moment of silence.” During the moment of silence the names of the 12 individuals were put up on the screen.

Hosts Brad Paisley and a very pregnant Carrie Underwood were back for an 11th year, and as always had a little fun with their opening song, making jokes about the show being long, as well as Carrie’s pregnancy, with Carrie revealing it’s a boy, or as she said, a “little Willie." There was also an appearance by Mason Ramsey, a bubble wrap dress gifted to Carrie, who injured herself in a fall last year, a dig at all the star-owned bars in Nashville and another about overwhelming success of men in country music (“finally!”).

Of course in addition to the awards, the night was about the performances and there certainly were a ton. Among them:

Luke Bryan opened the show with his latest single “What Makes You Country,” where he was joined by a slew of up-and-coming artists, including Luke Combs, Cole Swindell (who entered from the audience), Lindsey Ell, Chris Janson (on harmonica), Jon Pardi, and AshleyMcBryde. 

Thomas Rhett performed “Life Changes,” backed by the Ravenwood High School band, who followed him through the audience.

Dan + Shay performed their hit “Tequila,” which featured snow, lasers and even a piano that burst into flames (well, the top of it did).

Carrie belted out “Love Wins” in a blue dress that revealed bright colors in the lining of its cape, as colors burst on the screen behind her. One thing's for sure, that baby is not affecting her singing voice.

New Country Music Hall of Fame member Ricky Skaggs was saluted with a three-song set, which started off with him and his band Kentucky Thunder, with Ricky then joining Keith Urban and John Osborne for a performance of “Highway 40 Blues,” followed by Ricky and Brad Paisley performing “Country Boy At Heart,” which also featured Marty Stuart, Carson Peters and Sierra Hull. Another new HOF inductee, the late Dottie West, was also honored with a performance by Lauren Alaina.

Midland saluted new HOF inductee Jerry Reed with a performance of “East Bound and Down” on what looked like an 80s TV variety show set. The performance also served as a tribute to the late Burt Reynolds, since the song was used for his classic movie “Smokey and the Bandit,” with clips of Burt playing in the background of the performance. 

Keith Urban’s performance of “Never Comin’ Down” had a little of everything, lights, lasers, a huge LCD screen below him and a singing Nicole Kidman in the audience.

Garth Brooks debuted the new song “Stronger Than Me” for the very first time, which he sang for wife Trisha Yearwood, who was also hearing it for the very first time. It was pretty apparent they were both fighting off tears.

Pistol Annies had the audience up and dancing with a rollicking version of their latest single “Got My Name Changed Back,” with Miranda even performing on a a musical washboard.

Kacey Musgraves showed off why she won Album of the Year with a classy performance of “Slow Burn.”

Dierks Bentley and Brothers Osborne took the name of their song “Burning Man” literally, performing the tune in a circle of fire.

And Chris Stapleton once again brought the house down with his CMA performance, but he didn’t do it alone. He was joined by Maren Morris, Mavis Staples, Marty Stuart and his wife Morgane, for a show-stopping performance of “Friendship” and “I’ll Take You There.” 

And then there was… Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert, who performed “Drowns the Whiskey,” Kelsea Ballerini, who showed off her dance moves during “Miss Me More,” Bebe Rexha and Florida GeorgiaLine, who brought an orchestra for “Meant to Be;” Luke Combs (and his red solo cup) singing “She Got The Best Of Me,” Eric Church, who performed “Desperate Man,” host Brad Paisley debuting his song “Bucked Off;"  Old Dominion singing “Hotel Key,” and Brett Young, performing “Mercy” surrounded by female fans.