Three songs into their electrifying set, Brothers Osborne’s T.J. Osborne hinted at their upcoming CMA Fest surprise, saying they’d be playing a song for the first time ever with “people we grew up listening to and idolizing for a long time.” Moments later, resounding screams were heard throughout the stadium as Brooks & Dunn walked onto the stage for a rollicking version of the incoming Country Music Hall of Famers’ “Hard Workin’ Man.”
With T.J. and Ronnie Dunn trading vocals while John Osborne and Kix Brooks accompanied on guitar, the foursome brought the energy and plenty of guitar licks to the 1993 hit. “Can these guys rock or what?” Brooks marveled at the close of their performance.
Brooks & Dunn’s stirring “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” with Ashley McBryde
Brooks & Dunn made the most of their time at CMA Fest as the duo then invited Ashley McBryde to the stage to join in on the poignant “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone.” Brothers Osborne took a backseat on the track, featured on Brooks & Dunn’s latest release, Reboot, to give McBryde the spotlight. The reigning ACM new female artist of the year proved her future headliner status with mesmerizing vocals and stunning three-part harmonies alongside Brooks & Dunn.
Kelsea Ballerini and The Chainsmokers electrify with “This Feeling”
Several songs into her set on Thursday night, Ballerini let country fans know there was something special coming. “The fact that you are packing this place in the pouring rain shows how much you love country music,” the singer marveled. “I have this feeling we should probably dance in the rain together.” Moments later the Chainsmokers’ Alex Pall and Drew Taggart joined Ballerini for their pop hit “This Feeling.” While Ballerini danced around the stage with her collaborators, fans joined in on the arena-ready anthem as the rain steadily fell throughout her set.
Tanya Tucker joining Brandi Carlile for new single “The Wheels of Laredo”
Tucker was a last minute fill-in for Marty Stuart, who canceled his performance due to a personal family matter. At ease on the main stage, Tucker brought the star power and several special guests throughout her set. Brandi Carlile, who serves as co-producer with Shooter Jennings on Tucker’s forthcoming album, While I’m Livin’, joined in for the live debut of Tucker’s new single “The Wheels of Laredo.”
Assisting on harmonies, Carlile’s wavering vocals brought added depth to the song. She stuck around for the remainder of the set, too, singing another new song she co-wrote for Tucker’s project called “Bring My Flowers Now,” and hanging around for Tucker's classic 48-year-old hit “Delta Dawn.”
Florida Georgia Line and HARDY are “Y’all Boys”
Florida Georgia Line closed out night one with a hit-laden set. One song into their performance, FGL’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley brought out HARDY for the infectious “Y’all Boys.” A co-writer and featured singer on the track, HARDY brought the swagger alongside a seductive bass beat and ear-grabbing percussion while trading verses with Hubbard and Kelley.
The duo closed out their set with several more high-energy songs including massive crossover hit “Cruise,” equally catchy “This Is How We Roll,” feel-good “Simple” and sultry current single “Talk You Out of It.”
CMA Fest 2019 runs through June 9 in Nashville, Tennessee.