Somebody find that girl a musical to sing in.
The tumultuous cheers literally did stop the show for nearly a minute in a setting where applause tends to be loud but very brief.
McBride's reception demonstrated once again -- as if further proof was necessary -- that she has a voice meant for musical theater and the narrative sensibility to make her lyrical proclamations hit home. Her vocal delivery hit decibels somewhere in that wide-ranging territory between Ethel Merman's feral yowls and Judy Garland's tear-soaked confessionals.
"I wish you all could know what that feels like to me," McBride said when the applause finally faded away.
Other high points of the four-hour-plus show included the surprise performances of American Idol winners
Also performing were
Forsaking his usual black hat, Young charmed the crowd with a program that embraced both the romantic (
Little Big Town bowed in with "A Little More You" but then fully engaged the crowd with a rocking country treatment of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way." The foursome closed with
Clint Black came out and seated himself on a stool at the side of the stage beside his guitarist for a three-song acoustic set. The first of these was, he said, a new song, "Not Everything's Gonna Go My Way." Jauntily inviting the crowd to sing along, he then launched into his tongue-twisting and impenetrable "The Galaxy Song."
Black dedicated his last selection, "Something That We Do," to his wife, actress
"I'm taking half the credit," he declared.
Turner got a rock star ovation when he ambled onto the stage and began caressing hearts with "Would You Go With Me." He followed with the decidedly less cozy "Long Black Train," his first hit.
But the audience volume really ramped up when McCreery emerged to join Turner on "Your Man." It was a very audible testimony to television's ability to create a star virtually overnight.
After a 16-minute set switch, Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson came on to do one song, their current single
Trace Adkins, a man with a voice booming enough to follow Big & Rich's stage histrionics, did just that by opening with "Whoop a Man's Ass." He rambled on with such naughty pleasers as
But his most touching moment came when he sang his current single, "Just Fishin'," a hymn to parent-and-child bonding.
Alluding to the recent fire that destroyed his home, Adkins thanked the people for their "expressions of sympathy and generosity." But he told them to donate their money to other causes.
"We're OK," he assured them.
The duo Thompson Square and a guitarist came next with a two-song acoustic set of
McBride held steadfast in her set to her catalog of hits, from
She announced she will have a new album out on Oct. 18 and introduced a song from it that she said she hoped would serve to lift people up, "I'm Gonna Love You Through It."
Alaina joined her to sing
Then came the annoying part of the evening, during which the crowd was used as props for the TV special, hectored into waving lights that had been handed out and cheering on cue through three different takes to simulate the special's opening scene.
While all this was going on, Rascal Flatts waited patiently on a platform to do its first song surrounded by the audience. They did their remaining songs from the main stage.
McBride left the stage at 11:20 p.m. but Flatts didn't begin singing until 30 minutes later.
The final segment was relatively brief as Flatts breezed through
For their finale, Flatts offered up a blistering version of Boston's "Foreplay/Long Time." Then they invited Little Big Town out to cap the closing with a medley of Kansas' "Carry On My Wayward Son" and the Edgar Winters Group's "Free Ride."
Most of the audience was still there standing and cheering when the stage lights went out and the fireworks exploded at 12:23 p.m.