Another CMA Fest has come and gone, but not without some unforgettable moments. Day 4 of the 2018 fest saw the most surprises at Nissan Stadium — including Backstreet Boys joining Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan singing to Randy Travis — and several newcomers delivering impressive sets during the day on Sunday (June 10).
Check out the best highlights Billboard saw throughout the CMA Fest 2018 finale below.
Maddie & Tae’s Intimate Performance
Less than two hours after finishing an early-morning set on the Riverfront Stage, Maddie & Tae treated a small group of fans to some fun new tracks as well as their hits “Girl in a Country Song” and “Fly” at the HGTV Lodge. The intimate setting allowed for both their voices and personalities to shine, with the girls gushing over the hit HGTV show Fixer Upper and joking that they’ll be the next Chip and Joanna (Gaines, the show’s stars) after their singing career.
Luke Pell’s Ode to the Radio
The Texas native recalled growing up in the small town of Burnet, where his dad used tin foil to get reception for their one country station in town — the inspiration for his new song “If It Weren’t For Radio.” The rising singer, familiar for formerly starring on Season 12 of The Bachelorette, said the song is one of many new tracks he will be releasing later this year.
Mitchell Tenpenny’s Not-So-Lost Voice
“It’s the last day of CMA Fest and I’m losing my voice a little bit,” Mitchell Tenpenny told fans at the Broadway Stage. “Can y’all help me out a little bit for these last three songs?” Though the crowd obliged, he really didn’t need any help, as the country newcomer nailed every nuance on songs like “Alcohol You Later” and his debut single “Drunk Me.”
Morgan Wallen’s Rock Tribute
Before getting the crowd jamming with his current hit, the Florida Georgia Line-assisted “Up Down,” Morgan Wallen proved that he’s as much of a rocker as he is a country singer. The 25-year-old delivered an impressive medley of Linkin Park’s “In The End,” Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name,” Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar We’re Goin Down” and Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” — an awesome set-up for his own party anthem.
Scotty McCreery’s Shout-Out to His (Very) Soon-to-Be Wife
“I can almost count on one hand the days I have left without a ring on my finger,” Scotty McCreery told his Riverfront Stage crowd before singing his latest single “This Is It,” which was inspired by the singer’s engagement to his longtime love Gabi Dugal. Pointing out that she was side stage, he gushed, “Any love song you hear me sing, I wrote about her.”
Riley Green’s True Country Set
One of Big Machine’s rising stars, Riley Green proved that he is country to the core with previously released tracks like “Outlaws Like Us” as well as a new one titled “In a Truck Right Now.” Aside from his music, the Alabama native even shouted out NASCAR, yelling “Raise Hell Praise Dale!”
The Last Bandeleros’ Harmonies
The up-and-coming country band brought upbeat songs to the Broadway Stage, but even better harmonies, especially at the end of their track “River Bank.”
Cadillac Three’s Storm Delay Sing-Along
As fans waited out a weather delay (there was lightning in the area around 4 p.m.), The Cadillac Three‘s HGTV Lodge set was still a go and provided and fun fill-in for the shows that weren’t able to happen. The trio closed out their set — the last of the 2018 HGTV Lodge shows — with a rousing sing-along to “The South.”
Brett Eldredge’s Infectious Feel-Good Vibes
Fans could feel Brett Eldredge‘s excitement the second he took the stage at Nissan Stadium, and he carried that energy through his entire hit-filled set. Whether he was jumping, spinning or smiling, it was evident that he was having the time of his life up there. “This is too much fun,” he said. “Y’all are crazy and I love you for it.”
Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man” Moment
The stadium became a sea of lights as Thomas Rhett played his hit love song, but the performance became even more awe-inspiring when he asked to share a special moment with fans. After recalling attending CMA Fest as a fan, he said, “To be here singing for you guys tonight, I can’t even describe to you what a dream come true it is. So would you mind, sing this chorus with me, just me and you and this guitar.”
Dierks Bentley’s Fanboying Over Dwight Yoakam
Dierks Bentley brought out Dwight Yoakam to perform the country icon’s ’90s hit “Fast As You,” which had the “Woman, Amen” singer beaming. “I got goosebumps!” Bentley exclaimed after the performance. “I’m the biggest fan of that guy! I need a drink, I need to calm down.” Bentley later had Brothers Osborne join him for their new collaboration “Burning Man,” declaring before leaving the stage, “I hope you guys had the best CMA Fest, I just had mine.”
Florida Georgia Line’s Star-Studded Guest List
Considering the amount of hits Florida Georgia Line have themselves, they didn’t need to recruit anyone to make their CMA Fest performance enjoyable — but they sure did. Further proving their worth of Billboard’s first-ever Trailblazer Award, FGL surprised the crowd with the Backstreet Boys for “God, Your Mama and Me,” followed by Morgan Wallen for their current hit “Up Down,” and closing out their set with Bebe Rexha for their record-breaking collab, “Meant to Be.”
Luke Bryan’s Entire Set, Featuring an Ode to Randy Travis
Luke Bryan was clearly ready to party as soon as he hit the stage for his CMA Fest-closing performance, starting out with “Country Girl (Shake It For Me).” But once he spotted country legend Randy Travis in the front row, Bryan’s set became one for the books, as he sang renditions of Travis’ hits “On the Other Hand” and “Digging Up Bones.”
“I’ve been wanting to sing to you for a long time, buddy,” Bryan said with a smile as he pointed to Travis. “We might just need to make it a Randy Travis hour — how much time do we have?”
Though he didn’t play any other Randy Travis songs, Bryan added unrehearsed hits of his own to the set list, playing “That’s My Kind of Night” and “Rain Is a Good Thing” after taking a tequila shot to get even more fired up (“My band is like, ‘What the hell are you doing?!’” he quipped). Bryan’s energy was electric as he danced around the stage, and even jumped down to the floor to share an adorable moment with a passionate fan in the front row. Whatever had him feeling so “frisky” — as he put it — on a Sunday night was just fine by fans, who were ready to keep partying with him until he said he was getting cut off around 12:45 a.m. Before having Cole Swindell join him for “Roller Coaster” to close things out, Bryan hinted that he’ll be back next year. “We’re starting a CMA Fest tradition,” he said. “We gonna close it out every year!”