While CMA Fest 2019 continued with rain in the forecast, the weather cleared up during most of Night 2 at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium on Friday (June 7). The surprises continued with Carrie Underwood inviting Joan Jett to join her onstage for a powerhouse performance of the rocker’s hits, Jon Pardi popping in on Thomas Rhett’s set and Eric Church stripping things down for a 17-song medley of hits.
A night of unexpected collaborations, the official Nissan Stadium lineup on Friday included Jo Dee Messina, Little Big Town, Dan + Shay, Thomas Rhett, Church and Underwood. Take a look at five unexpected moments from Night 2 at Nissan Stadium.
Carrie Underwood channels her inner rock star with Joan Jett
Three songs into her set Friday night, Underwood began covering Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You.” Moments later, Jett herself walked out onstage with an electric guitar and the country festival immediately transformed into a rock show. Their electrifying duet included a medley of Jett’s monster hits, including “Bad Reputation, “Crimson and Clover,” “Fresh Start” and “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” with the crowd of country fans singing every word. “Yes! That just happened,” Underwood gushed after the performance before closing her set with the anthemic “Blown Away,” inspiring “Love Wins” and powerful “Before He Cheats.”
Eric Church strips it down with 17-song hit medley
Two weeks after Church broke the attendance record for a headlining show at Nissan Stadium he returned to the venue. This time, however, it was for an entirely different performance. Alone with an acoustic guitar, Church captivated during a 30-minute set where he sang snippets of 17 of his songs that spanned his decade-plus catalog.
A major departure from his full-band headlining tour, Church held the crowd in the palm of his hands with steady guitar-picking and his memorable vocals. Every now and then he’d stop for a moment, take a swig of his drink and power through another song, drawing even more screams from the crowd. He kicked off his marathon set with the haunting “Mistress Named Music” and segued through countless fan favorites including “Sinners Like Me,” “Smoke a Little Smoke,” “Wrecking Ball,” “Creepin’” and “Springsteen.”
Thomas Rhett brings the party with Jon Pardi on “Beer Can’t Fix”
A week after releasing his album Center Point Road, Thomas Rhett treated country fans to several songs from the project. One verse into the feel-good “Beer Can’t Fix” the singer was joined by Pardi for the infectious tune that has the song’s character finding solace during life’s biggest problems by cracking open a cold one. An unexpected collaboration, the two singers’ influences merged for an earworm of a song that blends pop-country, traditional country and a distinct island vibe that would make Kenny Chesney proud.
The remainder of TR’s high energy set spanned his catalog of hits including “Crash and Burn,” “Life Changes,” “Die a Happy Man,” “Unforgettable” and “T-Shirt.” A horn section put his already engaging set into overdrive and kept the stadium dancing throughout the entirety of his performance.
Little Big Town put a captivating new spin on “Boondocks”
A staple song for Little Big Town, “Boondocks” got a stirring remake during the band’s CMA Fest performance. Three songs into their set, the 19-year-old track made an appearance with a slowed intro before Karen Fairchild’s smoky vocals were heard. While the band stood beside each other on the Nissan Stadium stage, their four-part harmonies were highlighted before they kicked the song into high gear.
Fans in the back of the stadium got a treat as Little Big Town later made their way into the crowd to a stage set up on the floor during the song. “Now we are in the boondocks out here,” Fairchild joked. “We’re with the party crowd!” A highlight during their set, Kimberly Schlapman reiterated what everyone was thinking: “Thank the Lord it’s not raining!”
Dan + Shay bring the light show and their rising star power
Before Dan + Shay took the stage on Friday night, CMA Fest attendees got a glimpse of what was coming with a mini light show and heavy percussion beat that hushed the crowd. The duo then appeared for the hopeful “Alone Together” and latest single “All to Myself.”
A lot has changed since Dan + Shay’s last CMA Fest appearance. Their massive crossover hits “Tequila” and “Speechless” have helped make them a household name and this success was not lost on the duo, who frequently thanked country fans for their support. “This is an absolute dream come true for us,” Dan Smyers said. “You guys have absolutely changed our lives.”
The light show continued mid-set as the duo performed back-to-back hits with “Speechless,” “How Not To,” and “From the Ground Up,” but this time it was the fans providing the spotlight as they held their phones high in the air. Closing with massive hit “Tequila,” Smyers urged the audience to sing along. “[This has] the opportunity to be the loudest this song has ever been sung,” Smyers said. When Dan + Shay stepped away from their microphones, the resounding sound of fans singing back the lyrics accomplished exactly that.
CMA Fest 2019 runs through June 9 in Nashville, Tenn.