Only free beer would have made it a more joyful evening than fans experienced Thursday (June 7) as the
The weather was ideal and the music spectacular, thanks to such big guns as
The artists performed on a stage framed by a giant lighted arc that, at times, looked like the entrance of a railroad tunnel.
Addressing the sold-out crowd before the music started, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said fans from all 50 states and 26 countries had registered for the festival, which runs through Sunday (June 10).
"Please spend a lot of money," Dean implored. "We're going through the budget process, and we need it."
Backed by the Nashville School of the Arts Chorus,
A cloudless sky and the gentlest of cool breezes prompted the show's host to demand "a round of applause for Mother Nature" -- which he got.
Afflicted with the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, Campbell frequently stumbled and hesitated over his lyrics, but his guitar playing was right on the money as he ambled through "Galveston," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Try a Little Kindness," "Wichita Lineman," "Southern Nights" and "Rhinestone Cowboy."
Even impaired, Campbell is a magnificent performer and fully deserved the standing ovation the fans awarded him.
Next came ready-to-rumble Lambert, radiant in her blonde curls, black bustier top, miniskirt, knee-high boots and pink guitar -- just the kind of girl you'd invite to the NRA dance and turkey shoot.
Prancing out with the withering
Pausing to take a breath, she beckoned to the stage
When Monroe and Presley exited, Lambert closed her set with
The way she commanded the stage, it was easy to believe every word she said.
When Aldean hit the stage, it was like a shift in emotional gears, with the crowd leaping to its feet. Girls abandoned their lines at the restroom to rush back to their seats when they heard his name announced.
Of all the evening's performers, he brought the most energy and rock 'n' roll attitude to his set. Cocky as Mick Jagger, he paced the stage to storm through
The crowd sang along with Aldean as he plowed through
The graphics projected on the stage behind Aldean -- whether it was silhouettes of undulating women or cartoons of pulsating speakers -- added much to the effect.
Shots of the members of Lady Antebellum looking distracted or apprehensive as they waited to go onstage heralded the entrance of that trio, as did a persistent, almost ominous drumbeat.
Lady A arrived with
Propelled by insistent percussion, the trio continued with
The Zac Brown Band came on at 11 p.m. to a volcanic roar of approval from the audience. Starting with
Always at the ready, fiddler Jimmy De Martini has become almost as much a signature and sound of the group as Brown himself.
Up next was the band's new single, "The Wind," followed by
The band's new album, Uncaged, will be out in July.
While stagehands were setting up for Paisley, American Idol's
But there was still close to a full house when Paisley rocketed in with "Camouflage." There was substantially more excitement and some dancing in the aisles when he moved on to
Paisley then took a leisurely stroll through
He ended with the phrase, "a country boy can survive," which signaled the entrance of Hank Williams Jr.
There was a time when the rough and brusque Hank Jr. might have regarded Paisley as an hors d'oeuvre, but on this evening, the two were honky-tonk picking buddies who were there to tell the world, "I'm Gonna Get Drunk and Play Hank Williams All Night Long."
Good as his word, Paisley ended his set -- and the show -- at 12:15 p.m. with
The weather was still perfect as the crowd departed under a three-quarters moon.