Though Wednesday night’s CMT Music Awards signified the kickoff of the massive CMA Music Festival, there were plenty of non-country artists shaking things up throughout the evening.
This was apparent from the beginning of the telecast, as ZZ Top took to the stage first with some legendary guitar riffs before turning things over to Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan for “This Is How We Roll,” on which they were joined on stage by pop star Jason Derulo, who gave those in attendance a taste of his hit “Dirty.”
There were other guest appearances during the night, as well. Legendary Motley Crue member Vince Neil turned up with RCA recording artist Sara Evans to present an award during the telecast. (Motley Crue will be the subject of a multi-artist tribute record, to be released next month on Big Machine.)
Halestorm‘s Lzzy Hale turned up as a surprise guest of Eric Church for his fiery performance of “That’s Damn Rock & Roll,” which was one of the highlights of the evening.
Quite possibly the most emotional performance of the evening came from John Legend and Jennifer Nettles, who turned in a jaw-dropping version of his hit “All Of Me,” in an arrangement via Hunter Hayes.
And, perhaps the top moment from a “crossover” artist came when Lionel Richie won the CMT Performance of the Year for his duet with Luke Bryan on a medley of two of his classics, “Oh No,” and “All Night Long,” from the 2013 CMT Artist Of The Year special this past December. It might have been Richie’s first award in the genre, but not his first hit. He notched a pair of top-40 records in the 1980s with “Stuck On You” and “Deep River Woman,” a collaboration with Alabama.