CMA Festival Country’s Night To Rock: Recap + Loads of Opinion

cma fest 2015

CMA Festival’s Country’s Night To Rock aired this week (Aug. 4th) on ABC… and it was pretty forgettable. Country super group Little Big Town hosted the event and did a good job at it, it’s just too bad the event wasn’t as good as they were.

fgl cma Florida Georgia Line kicked off the night with “Anything Goes”. The song is horribly Bro and the vocals were as dreadful as they normally are, Brian’s being the worst of the two. While we’re on the topic of Brian, who the heck dressed him?! He wore a horribly cut up, defaced Dwight Yoakam T-shirt (seriously you could barely make out the fact that it was in fact once a t-shirt) and ripped skinny jeans. He looked like he hadn’t seen the inside of a shower or a razor in a while. Honestly, my first thought when I saw him was, “He looks like Butthead…” You know it’s really bad when you have to admit that Tyler is better dressed and looks better. As for the performance, it was their usual Bro-tastic. FGL performs like they’re rappers, lots of hand gestures and pacing the stage while they talk-sing… Evidently nobody has told them that they’re supposed to be country (check out Vickye’s review of the song here).

In spite of FGL’s wretchedness, I managed to hold on and kept watching, hoping that things would get better… Unfortunately Sam Hunt performed next. I found myself asking the same question, “Who in the world dresses this guy?” Whoever it is should be fired. I’m sorry… well actually I’m not, I just don’t see the attraction to Hunt or his music. Hunt performed his hit “House Party”, a song that has no place in the country genre, nor does he for that matter. I mean seriously, what did country do to deserve this?

lady a cmaNeedless to say, this was a promising start to the show. Things did pick up a bit though, as Lady Antebellum was up next. Singing “Long Stretch Of Love”, Lady A gave their usual good performance with their vocals on point as always. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Finally! Some good music! My only issue with this performance was that it seemed a bit off, like they were rushed or something. Other than that, great vocals, great song, great group (check out Jessica’s review of the song here).

Thomas Rhett follows with his newest “Crash and Burn”… and that’s exactly what his performance did, crashed and burned. His vocals were pretty bad, you couldn’t even understand what he was saying for most of the song (which was actually probably more of a good thing than a bad one). Rhett seems to be confused as to what his musical identity really is and what genre he belongs in. His voice really wasn’t meant for this song, comes off pretty whinny/strained, granted the song isn’t good either which doesn’t help (check out Vickye’s review of the song here)

So far we have a mediocre show at best… but never fear! Here comes….. oh wait never mind. Cole Swindell comes on with his “Let Me See Ya Girl”. What’s up with skinny jeans in country these days? I realize that it’s nothing new, but still, why?! This song is just a generic Bro song which is played way too much. Swindell’s songs all sound relatively the same, but then again, he’s not alone in that respect. The performance was lackluster and pretty boring.

After Swindell’s performance, the ladies of Little Big Town talk with Sam Hunt back stage and present him with a Gold Record for his album Montevello. I admit, Sam seems like a nice guy, it’s too bad he’s in the wrong genre. I love Kim Schlapman of Little Big Town, she’s just so sweet and adorable.

Up next, Rascal Flatts performs a song… The vocals/audio was so bad that I actually couldn’t tell what song it was. My first thought when hearing that Rascal Flatts was performing was, “Are they even still relevant?” I used to like their older stuff, but sadly most of their new material is bland and generic. Gary’s vocals seem whinier than usual. The performance was pretty stale, the song forgettable (seriously, don’t even know which one it was and not at all concerned). The Rascal Flatts boys look like they’re trying to look and sound younger, all dressing like member of One Direction… It’s kind of sad actually.

The show takes a break from music for a little skit featuring The Property Brothers touring a few of the artists’ tour buses. We get a peak at Little Big Town’s, Thomas Rhett’s, and Brett Eldredge’s. Little Big Town’s bus was classy and stylish. Brett’s bus was cool, featuring a drawer full of wigs, a man cave, and dart guns.

Then we’re back to the music with the Zac Brown Band performing “Loving You Easy”. Their performance was laid back and chill, vocals on point. I don’t necessarily find the song exciting or stellar in any way, but it sure is a lot better than the rest of the songs on mainstream radio.

Up next, Keith Urban comes on with a performance of his dreadful song “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”. If you’re a regular reader of FTCR, you’ll already know my full opinion of the song, if not, read it here. I’ve never been too impressed with Keith Urban, especially lately. He appears to be desperate stay relevant and to look young as well (obvious wrinkle free face and hipster haircut). He seems to be living by one of the lines in the song, “Never grow up/ Never grow old”.

Thank God for Eric Church! Church follows Urban, performing his latest single “Like A Wrecking Ball”. Finally some good music, which seems to be few and far between. Church is an artist that has kept his musical integrity and originality. He makes the music he wants, regardless of whether it’s popular on radio. Church’s vocals are on point as usual, as he delivers an excellent performance.

The King of Summer, Kenny Chesney comes next, playing at a small honky tonk bar in Nashville, away from the main venue. Chesney performs his “Save It For A Rainy Day”, it’s an alright song and a simple performance, nothing stellar, but not bad either. I’ve got nothing against Kenny, love his older stuff, grew up with him being played on the radio regularly. Plus he has nice guns!

Then we find ourselves back at the main venue, with Lee Brice performing his smash hit “Drinking Class”. This is actually one of my favorite songs from Brice. Lee shines brightest on ballads. His vocals are just a bit off, seems a bit too strained. His performance was a bit too angsty, I felt like he should have been on some cheesy 80s rock video… Or a motivational video gone wrong. But like I said, I like the song and Lee generally has a good voice.

And then we come to the moment we’ve all been waiting for… Country Powerhouse Carrie Underwood! You’re guaranteed an excellent performance with Carrie, and she never disappoints! Carrie sang her latest single “Little Toy Guns”, and was vocally stellar as always! Underwood truly is the whole package: Excellent vocals, great performer, beauty, and a lovable personality.

Unfortunately the great moment didn’t last too long, as Jason Aldean took the stage next, performing his “Tonight Looks Good On You”. Aldean’s vocals are never good live, they’re always strained and off. He doesn’t really project when singing. His performance was lackluster, but I have to say, it was better than his usual live performances. He’s generally pretty boring, and seems to have a boring personality as well.

Karen Fairchild brings Charles Esten on to help her introduce Darius Rucker to the crowd. Ruckers sings his “Homegrown Honey”. I’ve always liked Rucker’s voice, his vocals are just as good live as they are in the studio, and his performances are always good as well, it’s just too bad that “Homegrown Honey” is such a horrible song.

Little Big Town presents Brett Eldredge with a plaque for achieving three consecutive #1’s. Then the group takes the stage and sings their smash hit “Girl Crush”. The group’s vocals/harmonies are always stellar. They are excellent performers. I love the simple performances they do for “Girl Crush”, it highlights the song and Karen’s vocals.

Brett Eldredge follows LBT and performs his hit “Mean To Me”. I love his voice, it’s deep and has uniqueness to it. His performance was good, and I like the song. I like Brett, he’s just a likable guy. Brett sticks around for another song, singing his latest single “Lose My Mind”. This is a more pumped up performance. It’s a funky song, not my favorite from him, but it’s ok. I prefer his simpler songs.

Thomas Rhett comes back to the stage to perform “Make Me Wanna”. His vocals just grate on me, they aren’t that stellar live. It’s another lackluster performance. I find it interesting that he changed up the sound on this song, made it funkier. The fact that he’s changing his sound around, leaning towards a more R&B sound, makes me think he belongs in another genre entirely.

Luckily Dierks Bentley comes in to save the night and our ears, performing his “Drunk On A Plane”. You can always count on Dierks giving a great live performance, he’s a true entertainer and his vocals are always great. The song is catchy and fun. One thing I love about Dierks is the fact that he’s a true artist, he sticks to the sound that works for him and doesn’t compromise his music in order to get radio play.

Our luck holds for another performance, as Brad Paisley takes the stage to perform his “Crushin’ It”. He is another great live entertainer, vocals are usually on point. This was a high energy performance of a song that grows on you the more you listen to it. Brad is another artist who sticks relatively to his trademark sound and doesn’t compromise his music. He’s also an excellent guitar player!

Unfortunately our luck runs out after Brad. Randy Houser takes the stage to perform his latest single “We Went”. This happens to be his debut at the CMA Festival. His vocals are totally off, they sound strained and like he’s out of breath. It sounded like he was having trouble keeping up with the song. It wasn’t a very good performance. The song isn’t that good to begin with; read this for a full review of this song.

Next is a little skit that finds Little Big Town driving around in a golf cart looking for Luke Bryan’s tour bus, as they are his escort to the venue. Once they find Luke, they take him to the stage, but not without a few antics on the way. It was a funny segment and a relief from some of the bland performances of the night.

Luke Bryan takes the stage to perform his “Kick Up The Dust”. I hate this song, it’s just wretched. What’s even more infuriating is the fact that we all know that Luke can do better than this. He seems to have a likable personality, and is definitely a crowd pleaser, it’s just too bad he records crappy songs. Bryan gets double time on stage, singing “I See You” as well. Again, nothing too stellar about the song.

Florida Georgia Line takes the stage again to perform “Sippin’ On Fire”… because CMA evidently believes in torture. Is it sad that Tyler seems to be a well-dressed, talented singer compared to Brian tonight? I’ll say it in plain terms, Brian looks like a dufus. The performance was… In a word: horrible.

The torture continues with Sam Hunt taking the stage again, this time singing “Take Your Time”. Why is he in country music?! GET OUT! My kid sister’s answer to his “I just wanna take your time” is “Congrats you did, that’s 3 minutes of my life I’ll never ever get back.”

After Hunt’s performance, we switch over to a honky tonk where Kip Moore performs his “I’m To Blame”. His vocals are a little too raspy tonight, but other than that, it was an enjoyable performance. He even had a banjo player on stage with him! Gasp! And let’s face it, the man has incredibly nice guns!

Next, Keith Urban and Eric Church join forces on “Raise ‘Em Up”, a really bad song, seriously I can’t stand it. Eric deserves better than this song can give. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing that Urban has going for him is his guitar skills.

maddie and tae cma

Maddie & Tae takes the stage to perform their hit “Girl In A Country Song” next. Their vocals are on point and the performance was great. This was their CMA debut, and they did very well. It was great to see a female act on the CMA Fest stage (considering they were one of only two completely female acts to play, the other being Carrie Underwood). I love the fact that they sang that particular song, considering the amount of Bro’s who performed on that same stage. I find the fact that the crowd was passionately singing along to the duo’s song ironic, considering how passionately they were singing along to all the Bro’s songs (the same songs that Maddie & Tae call out in their own song).

Little Big Town takes the stage again to perform what is projected to be their next single, “Pain Killer”. As I said before, the group’s vocals are always stellar. The performance was pumped up and cool, featuring stilt walkers on stage.

Chris Young took the stage next, to sing his latest single “I’m Coming Over”. I love his voice! It always sounds good, never a bad day. I love his baritone, warm and inviting. Great performance, good song.

Jason Aldean closes out the night with “She’s Country”. His vocals are better, but still not that good. There’s more energy to this performance, which helps. Aldean just isn’t a great live performer. I do like the song, though it’s ironic considering that there were very few female artists present…

Overall, I find it a shame how much country events/shows have gone downhill in recent years. Remember the days when you could turn on the TV and know immediately that you were watching a country music show? What happened? This latest Country’s Night To Rock was pretty boring and bland, not really worth the time it took to watch. Another bone I have to pick with CMA is the shameful lack of females at the CMA Festival this year (and in general), especially after the whole SaladGate issue. We all know that Maddie & Tae were a last minute add, just so CMA could save a little face… CMA you NEED to start showcasing more female acts! There are plenty of them out there, take your pick!

About Liz

Writer and Social Media Manager. Grew up on Traditional and Classic Country, also love Americana.
This entry was posted in Show Reviews, TV/Radio Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to CMA Festival Country’s Night To Rock: Recap + Loads of Opinion

  1. Kaz says:

    I can only say how much I agree with you. I love my trips to Nashville for musicfest but this year the lineup just sucked arse. I referred to it as a sausage-fest.
    This only other female playing the evening show was Wynonna Judd. Dunno why they left out TBP, they were there and wonderful. Far better than Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett. There were other terrible acts but these and FGL are my most hated.
    Ugh, watching the TV special used to be a reminder of a great holiday but this year just reminded me how much I hated most of the acts

Share your voice!