As the heat continued in Nashville Saturday (June 9), so did the music, as the third day of CMA Fest saw hitmakers Devin Dawson, Tyler Farr, Kelsea Ballerini and Jon Pardi perform, among many others. With Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban providing quite the ending to another star-studded day, Day 3 was quite the set-up for the last day of CMA Fest 2018.
Check out the best moments of the sets Billboard saw on Day 3.
Cassadee Pope’s Power Notes
Cassadee Pope proved she has pipes on The Voice, and that certainly hasn’t changed six years later. Her voice was flawless throughout her entire Riverfront set, but her power was most proven when she sang her hit “Wasted All These Tears,” which she started with a rendition of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” – an appropriate pick for the hard-hitting vocalist.
Devin Dawson’s Mom
After years of watching shows on the Riverfront as a fan, Devin Dawson made his debut on the stage to an impressive crowd. To make the performance even more special, Dawson announced that his mom had flown from California to be there for it. She’s not just a proud mom, but a fan too, as she sang every word along with Dawson while watching side-stage.
Walker McGuire’s No. 1 Moment
In the middle of their own hits, Walker McGuire played Luke Combs’ “When It Rains It Pours,” which the duo’s Jordan Walker co-wrote. Before they sang the original version – which includes a not-so-nice curse word in the chorus – Walker told the crowd about getting to hear it live at Nissan Stadium the night before. “I had a really cool moment last night,” he said. “I was sitting next to my mom and dad and fiancée and watched 60,000 people sing a song I wrote.”
Kassi Ashton’s Hometown Tale
As Kassi Ashton fans know, the singer is from a small town in Missouri called California, and has a song about it called “California Missouri.” But for those who got their first Kassi experience at CMA Fest, they likely fell in love with her creative storytelling both in the song and on stage, as she detailed that small-town life was not for her. “I love to go there, but I really love to leave there,” she said.
Tyler Rich’s California Support System
The Yuba City, California native had one of the weekend’s biggest Broadway Stage crowds, which is likely in part to his song “The Difference” that just hit the top spot on SiriusXM The Highway’s Hot 30 countdown. His Cali roots seemingly also played into his large crowd, though, as his question “How many people from California we got here?” sparked a big reaction.
Tyler Farr’s Redneck Rendezvous
“We got any rednecks here?” Tyler Farr asked before performing his biggest hit “Redneck Crazy” in the middle of his set. Though he stayed on stage for that song, Farr became one with the crowd for the last two songs of his set, high-fiving his way through the first couple rows and declaring “Show me what country music is all about!” Also sticking around to sign some autographs after his show, Farr proved to be one of the most personable performers of the weekend yet.
Michael Ray’s Mini Amos Showcase
Michael Ray just released his sophomore album Amos just a week before taking the Riverfront stage at CMA Fest, and fans in attendance got the chance to hear some new tracks from the album. After opening number “Fan Girl” got the crowd going, Ray was clearly excited to perform other new tracks “Summer Water” and “One That Got Away.” Even so, the album’s lead single “Get To You” was his best vocal performance of the day, as he absolutely nailed his falsetto.
RaeLynn’s Cheeky New Song
The former Voice contestant performed at her coach Blake Shelton’s bar Ole Red as part of Spotify and Opry Entertainment’s CMA Fest Hot Country showcase. In the middle of playing her familiar tunes, RaeLynn said, “I’m gonna play you a brand spankin new song – I I feel like that’s what CMA Fest is all about, am I right?” She expained that the song (titled “Bra”) was about how she felt after a liberating breakup, hilariously emphasized by lines like, “Breaking up with you was like taking my bra off.”
LeeAnn Womack’s Tribute to George Jones
The country veteran opened the third night of Nissan Stadium shows with some new songs. While her voice soared on all of them, a standout moment was her cover of George Jones’ “You’re Still on My Mind,” as he was the Texas native’s favorite singer growing up. (Funny enough, she was ironically wearing a Hank Williams Sr. shirt for the performance rather than Jones.)
Jon Pardi’s “Country Ass Songs”
Certainly the most traditional country singer on the night’s bill, Jon Pardi had no problem taking ownership of that lane. “I’m gonna play really country ass songs,” he said after excitedly acknowledging he was on the “big deal stage” six years into his career. After singing California Sunrise deep cuts “Paycheck,” “Can’t Put You Down,” and “Night Shift,” Pardi ended his set with a medley of his biggest hits from the album, “Head Over Boots,” “Heartache on the Dance Floor,” and “Dirt on My Boots.”
Sam Hunt’s Surprise Appearance
Though Sam Hunt had just been in Nashville for a performance of his new single “Downtown’s Dead” on the CMT Music Awards, he wasn’t scheduled to perform at any point during this year’s CMA Fest – that is, until the Nissan Stadium show announcers revealed he was in the building seconds before he came out. Short but sweet, Hunt delivered a roaring rendition of “Downtown’s Dead” in the center of the stadium.
Dustin Lynch’s Shout-Out to Drake
Dustin Lynch’s high-energy set had fans singing along to his hits like “Where It’s At” and “Small Town Boy,” but one of the best parts of his set involved a song that’s not even his (or country). In the middle of “Mind Reader,” Lynch began singing Drake’s “God’s Plan,” which surprisingly worked into the song seamlessly – proving that Drake isn’t just for hip-hop fans, especially considering the crowd’s loud reaction.
Kelsea Ballerini’s “Legends” Anniversary
Representing the country females in an otherwise male-dominated night, Kelsea Ballerini held her own with a hit-filled set including “Yeah Boy” and her latest single “I Hate Love Songs.” One of the most special moments came when she performed “Legends,” which she debuted at CMA Fest exactly one year ago. “Last year at CMA Fest I put this song out,” she said, “and this year I get to say its my first No. 1 from my second album … Thank you!”
Chris Stapleton’s Mesmerizing Talent
After his fellow performers used every inch of the stage, Stapleton stayed put for his entire set. But fans likely hardly even noticed, as his voice soared on every song and his guitar playing (especially on “Second One to Know”) was mind-blowing. He hardly even had to prompt fans to sing along, either, as the 60,000 fans in the venue echoed most of the songs he performed. Further showing off his skills, Stapleton introduced his band to the tune of “Tennessee Whiskey” – making him as lovable as he is talented.
Keith Urban’s Electrifying Set
While Stapleton had the crowd mesmerized, Keith Urban likely had them out of their seats as soon as he took the stage. His six-song set was lively from start to finish thanks to hits like “Somewhere In My Car” and his new single “Coming Home,” with even his ballad “Blue Ain’t Your Color” keeping the vibe alive. Though he was clearly amped himself, perhaps the performance was so energized because Urban never let go of his electric guitar – even when he made his way through the crowd to play part of “The Fighter” in the middle of the stadium.