The CMAs continued with Jason Aldean performing his hit single ‘Take A Little Ride’. His vocals were okay, much better than on his earlier performance, although actually the backing vocals were pitched wrongly I feel and actually made all the vocals sound out of tune in places even though Jason was on point. I think in this instance they may have needed Jason’s vocals to be louder in the mix, because although he was singing in tune, particularly on the chorus (which should be a peak in the song) they just didn’t stand out and sounded weak. His outfit was nice, the waistcoat-and-casual-shirt-combo suited him, giving it a rustic feel, but as for the setup, well it was an average country-rock staging and lacked imagination at times. The much-talked-about duet of Kelly Clarkson and Vince Gill was next, and as expected Kelly’s vocals were great. I don’t think she ever has a bad vocal day! I loved the dress, gothic and on trend, however I felt like the performance was pretty much a reproduction of the studio version (perhaps because it’s a new single and they want to sell records but meh). It was done pretty plainly and simply but you could argue that it was appropriate for the song’s subject matter, promoting taking a back seat and just relaxing. Vince’s guitar playing was definitely a highlight of the performance for me.
The final original performance of the night was from Kenny Chesney, with his monster hit ‘Come Over’. I have to say something about the ‘look’ Kenny goes for nowadays, and personally I think he just looks a little creepy and I feel uncomfortable looking at him or watching him, but I don’t know why that is. I don’t know if it’s just me either. But that kind of ruins perfectly good performances for me. His vocals were on par but the performance itself was pretty basic, although I’m not sure a lot could be done with the song (that’s not to say Taylor Swift couldn’t have made it into a period narrative). I noticed during the night that a couple of performances used the song’s music video for the video footage in the background, and this was one of them. UNIMAGINATIVE! And self-promoting. I know that’s what all this is about but at least try to disguise it a little.
Following this, there was the tribute to Willie Nelson. Lady Antebellum sung two songs, ‘Always On My Mind’ and ‘Crazy’. Both Hillary and Charles looked incredibly awkward, especially the latter, though it was nice to hear Hillary sing in a more country twang style. Their vocals weren’t too bad, a little case of the flat liveness but that’s to be expected. It was a fairly average performance, modernising the more traditional sounds. Next up was Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson’s harmonica player) in a trio that stayed fairly true to the Western Honky-Tonk feel of the songs. They performed ‘Whiskey River’ with a rockin’ guitar solo which brought the performance into the 21st century, but into the final chorus keeping traditional elements. This was very refreshing for a genre so plagued by pop and commercial influences, and especially since Keith Urban was involved in this and he’s usually one of the pop-ish perpetrators. Next was Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, performing ‘Good Hearted Woman’. They seemed to stick as well as they could to the original sound and feel of the song, but incorporated their typical on-stage chemistry of standing very close and singing to each other. It was kept very simple and stripped back, which was nice in comparison to the showbiz feel of the modern industry and these awards.
After this, Willie Nelson came to the stage and joined all the previous tribute performers for a rendition of ‘On The Road Again’. I have to say he never seems to age and his talent never seems to deteriorate! His vocals were still the same quality as they ever were and his guitar solo was right on point. Despite so many performers being on stage, he commanded the stage. It was nice to see such a unified tribute to him, although I found it interesting to honor someone who was previously part of the Western outlaw movement that rejected much of Nashville’s commercial ways and sounds, instead preferring a more ‘traditional’, and ‘true country’ aesthetic. But hey, he’s a legend now and he probably appreciates the recognition.
That was the final of the performances and it was a great way to end the show, despite the fact that the three-hour televised event didn’t start all too well in my opinion! There were ups and downs throughout, although I certainly enjoyed it, it’s great that country music continues to come together to celebrate a few times a year, even if some people don’t perform too well!
So what did you think of the performances? Do you agree with my opinions? Was there anyone you think should have performed and didn’t? Did you enjoy the show? Let us know in the comments!
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