Kiss with Lady Antebellum at Sunday night's Academy of Country Music Awards. (Getty Images)
The 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, held Sunday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, were a mixture of expected winners sprinkled with a couple of surprises.
Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert, and Lady Antebellum repeated wins in the Entertainer, Female Vocalist, and Vocal Group of the Year categories. In her acceptance speech, Swift thanked her fellow nominees, as well as the fans who voted for her in the category. She also acknowledged Kevin McGuire, a 18-year old New Jersey cancer patient who was slated to be Swift's date for the awards, but was hospitalized and had to miss out on the evening.
Lambert took home Album of the Year for her "Four The Record" disc, while her husband Blake Shelton earned the Male Vocalist nod. Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson scored a double win in the Single Record and Vocal Event of the Year categories for "Don't You Wanna Stay," and Toby Keith for Video of the Year for "Red Solo Cup," The biggest surprises were Thompson Square's win for Vocal Duo of the Year -- just a year after topping the chart with their debut hit "Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not," and the Eli Young Band's Song of the Year prize for "Crazy Girl" (co-writers: Liz Rose and Lee Brice).
"American Idol" winner and fan favorite Scotty McCreery took home the New Artist of the Year prize.
The telecast was hosted once again by Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton, who provided humor during their opening monologue by making a few jokes about latest newsmakers such as Peyton Manning, Randy Travis, and even Miranda Lambert. Shelton even referenced wife Miranda Lambert's comments about Chris Brown's performances on the Grammy Awards.
Performance-wise, the night was filled with many highlights. Carrie Underwood started the evening with a seductive romp through her latest, "Good Girl." Chris Young gave a very energetic performance of "Save Water, Drink Beer." Sara Evans delivered a strong rendition of her current release "My Heart Can't Tell You No."
Two of the night's stronger vocal showcases were the Zac Brown Band's "Keep Me In Mind" and the Band Perry's "Postcard From Paris," which is the fifth single from their debut Republic disc. Brad Paisley -- always a strong vocalist -- showcased his incredible guitar skills on "Camouflage." Paisley and Brown collaborated later in the evening with a performance of "Whiskey's Gone," with Paisley donning a Zac Brown look by wearing a toboggan hat!
It was another instrument that took precedence during Rascal Flatts' latest single, "Banjo." Steve Martin performed the licks on the five-string immediately following a mention of the passing of Earl Scruggs this past week.
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When it came to audience participation, Toby Keith took his latest hit "Red Solo Cup" directly to the people -- making his way through the crowd while singing the song's irreverent lyrics. The crowd came to their feet while watching Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw's performance of "(Whatever Makes You Feel) Like A Rock Star."
Speaking of, rock stars were also represented during the CBS telecast. Marc Anthony, Bono, and Kiss made appearances, as well as "Two And A Half Men" star Ashton Kutcher, who presented the Female Vocalist trophy to Lambert. Just a few minutes later, the double winner gave perhaps the most poignant moment of the night with her "Over You," which was co-written with Shelton.
Another special moment took place during Martina McBride and Train's Pat Monahan's performance of "Marry Me." Tying the knot during the song were Christina Davidson and Frank Tucci -- both of whom lost their first spouses in 2009. Fans can follow the story of the couple along their journey to the chapel at www.ACMwedding.com.