Amid a variety of styles and sounds, all of the performers at Sunday night's (June 12) concert at LP Field all shared one emotion -- an intense feeling of gratitude towards the fans to close out the
The yearly fan fest wrapped up with an exciting show that included
Swift has had much practice in this department, often thanking her fans on awards shows and surveying her crowd in awe during concerts, but her headlining spot at this year's event held special significance for the now world-famous singer.
"I'm so honored to be here at the biggest country music party in the world," she announced in greeting the massive audience. "I was about 15 the first time I came to CMA Fest, and I sat right over there!" she said, pointing somewhere to the right of the stage.
With that, she invited everyone to listen to her tell a few "stories" and promptly jumped into her latest single,
"You are so absolutely incredible, thank you!" she said after picking up a guitjo (a banjo with a guitar neck) and launching into
Then, like a slow moving bolt of lightning energizing the crowd, she and an escort of security guards left the stage and began working straight through the audience. Spotlights and camera flashes twinkled off her dress as the mass of humanity began to part and Swift skipped through fans, high-fiving her way to a special stage built in the center of the stadium.
As she reached her mark, the crowd re-adjusted around the small stage, and Swift introduced another weapon in her arsenal, a ukulele.
Calling it "the happiest sounding instrument -- ever," she picked an equally upbeat song,
Returning to the main stage, she enticed fans to sing along to
Before Swift tore the house down, though, it had to be built first.
Shelton's performance was one of the night's many highlights, as the newly-married Oklahoman delighted fans with a guest appearance from
First up was his parents' pick with Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music White Boy," then his brother's with the J. Geils Band's "Centerfold" and finally his sister's with Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative." After all that, he talked about working up the nerve to ask his sister to turn it down one day, only to have the door slammed in his face. This led fittingly to his response,
The CMA's reigning male vocalist of the year started off his set with
Shelton's wife, Miranda Lambert, took the stage just after her husband (a word she said she's still getting used to) and offered a selection of songs starting and ending with the explosive duo of
As a bonus, she took the opportunity to introduce the crowd to her side project, a trio called the Pistol Annies. Featuring
Rucker also praised his fans, thanking them over and over for "letting him in" to country music. He brought the crowd to its feet from the moment he took the stage with the feel-good
Earlier in the night, The Band Perry riled up the crowd with a gracious and quick-moving set. Fresh off scoring their first two wins at the
"We believe country is the people's music, and this song belongs to you," said Kimberly Perry.
For a newer group, it was refreshing to hear the big audience sing most of the song note for note, and many in attendance were familiar enough with
To open the show, fresh-faced duo the JaneDear Girls got their first taste of the CMA's main stage. Energetic and engaging, they mixed their voices into a thick harmony on
As the final notes rang out and fireworks exploded overhead, the 40th annual CMA Music Festival ended on a high note with many fans pledging to return. Since they had yet to even reach the exits of the stadium, it's no wonder performers are so genuinely grateful year after year.