The main reason for watching the CMAs is the winners announced, of course, but the performances take up far more airtime and are always a major talking point each year. So I thought I’d do a brief rundown of each of the performances broadcast last Thursday, November 1, as part of the 46th Country Music Association Awards (ignoring the
First up was the combined performance of Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Eric Church. I actually missed the first ten minutes of the show so when I watched this back on YouTube I was very disappointed as it had been billed as a great performance. To my dismay I felt the vocals were weak and uninspiring, there was no energy in the performance, and none of the performers looked excited, happy, or particularly into the song, in fact all three looked bored and indifferent. It wasn’t the worst I’ve since but they could have done a lot better to open up the show, and picking a song where the verses were semi-rapped was not one of their best decisions, whoever made it. Rap is still new in country music and just because Jason rapped a little in his smash hit ‘Dirt Road Anthem’, does not mean that he can rap in a manner that actually sounds like rap as opposed to odd semi-spoken song, and the fact that Luke tried to copy his method did not help. In addition, the contrast of Eric Church’s voice in comparison to Jason and Luke made Eric sound weedy and like he was on helium, because of the differences in vocal styles and tone. All three of them are known as rockers and the song just didn’t rock out like I hoped it was going to.
The second performance was from Tim McGraw, of his new single. This wasn’t bad but it was an average country performance and rather forgettable unfortunately. There was an emphasis on guitars on stage and the melody reminded me of ‘Home’ by Michael Buble/Blake Shelton, but otherwise nothing really stuck out for me from this performance at all. However, next was Miranda Lambert, in tight leather pants, high-heeled boots, and a multi-colored corset, and instantly I was watching avidly. Her vocals were decidedly weak but the nature of the song she was singing ‘Fastest Girl In Town’ allows for that. Headbanging and jumping around, Miranda really rocked up the CMA stage and woke everyone up despite her vocal issues. Following this, Zac Brown Band took to the stage to drop the energy back down, their beautiful harmonies creating a rustic feel. It was very low-key, which really contrasted with Miranda.
Dierks Bentley was next, bringing in the rock vibe once again, with a similar stage setup to Tim McGraw. His vocals were good but they needed to be made louder, and at times he was literally straining to be heard. I noticed a few other people having this same problem and it could easily have been fixed by sound check. The Band Perry were a highlight for me as Kimberly’s feistiness came into play with a performance of their new single ‘Better Dig Two’, which is full of attitude and contrasts of sound, eventually settling in crashing drums and distorted guitars. Not only was there a cool light show, but the three of them are very active on stage which makes their performance visually stimulating and interesting. Kim’s outfit was cute and classic, and her vocals were strong. The CMAs seemed to be getting into their stride as Eric Church took to the stage and performed his mega-hit, ‘Springsteen’, coupled with an unexpected mash-up of ‘Born To Run’, by Bruce Springsteen. I loved the driving through desert highway video in the background, very atmospheric, and though his movements were understated (the way he patted his shoulder on the ‘tattoo’ line) they were effective and matched his stage persona. The guitar additions were good, and his vocals were great until he went into ‘Born To Run’, and then they got very wobbly, but his charisma as a performer still required the attention of the whole arena.
Running straight into Eli Young Band, their performance just didn’t seem as intriguing, and though classic, it was a safe choice. Physically it was nice to move the action to the middle stage, but the whole performance was kind of ruined by the jittery vocals. There was a great deal of audience participation however which built up the energy a little, and not being familiar with Eli Young Band, he kind of reminds me of Gary LeVox in how he presents himself on stage. Just a thought. After this the CMAs became an ode to Parisian dining as Taylor Swift did her typical elaborate stage setting. It was a nice, thought out setup, but after the initial accordion stuff and the interest waned, all she did was stand there and sing slightly off-key as usual. Her outfit was nice and I liked the touch of the falling leaves towards the end of her performance, but otherwise it was too simple and boring and ruined a beautiful song. Next was the award-winning Little Big Town which a complete switch-up. They were standing within boxes surrounded by projected animations that matched the song, in particular the infamous ‘motorboating’ lyric! It really added some energy to the song without them having to do much other than stand there and sing/play instruments, and as a result it was one of the strongest vocal performances of the night, which will make up for the sheer amount of leather present on that stage. A little too much for me!
That’s it for part 1 of the 2012 CMA Awards performance reviews, and watch this space for part 2.