Alabama honored with Pinnacle Award on final day of 50th CMA Fest

Band receives major award during surprise Nissan Stadium appearance

Strong storms rolled into the Nashville area Sunday (June 11th), canceling most afternoon activities for the fourth and final day of the 50th anniversary of CMA Fest. The weather delayed night four of the Nissan Stadium headliners by only 15 minutes.

The deep tones of Josh Turner kicked off the night by celebrating 20 years of “Long Black Train,” and the triple Platinum success of “Your Man.”

He was followed by a full set from the night’s surprise act Alabama. They most likely stepped in after Jimmie Allen was dropped due to ongoing allegations against him. But regardless, this was one thousand times better than Allen would have been.

Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry proved they are still at the top of their game with a four song set that included “Dixieland Delight” mashed up with “Will the Circle be Unbroken.” Of course, they stirred the crowd with a boot-stomping “Mountain Music.”

After their set, Dierks Bentley presented the two remaining original members of country’s premiere band with the Country Music Association’s Pinnacle Award, pointing out they were the first country act to play stadiums, and continue to sell out large venues to this day. A speechless Randy Owen simply thanked the fans in attendance for an over five decade long career.

The Pinnacle Award recognizes an artist or group who has undeniably redefined the pinnacle of success in the genre by achieving prominence through concert performances, consumption numbers, record sales and/or other significant industry achievements at levels unique for country music. They have also attained the highest degree of recognition within the broad expanse of music worldwide, and their talent and presence will have a long-term positive impact on the appreciation of country music for generations to come.

The Pinnacle Award was created in 2005 when it was presented to Garth Brooks. The award’s only other recipients are Taylor Swift in 2013 and Kenny Chesney in 2016.

Ashley McBryde followed with a set that flew by. From the first note of the unreleased “Made for This” to the last note of “One Night Standards,” she showed the stadium why she is country music’s future.

Dierks Bentley took the main stage next, plowing through eight numbers, and heavily featuring his shiny new band member: the storied musician Charlie Worsham. Worsham took lead on “Callin’ Baton Rouge.” It was a fun set capped off with “5150” and “I Hold On.”

Tim McGraw put all his “Eras” on display. (Get it? Taylor Swift…Eras…Tim McGraw…?) Opening with the rocking “How Bad Do You Want It” before immediately shifting into “Something Like That” and “Just to See You Smile.” 2013’s electronic-tinged “Southern Girl” paired well with the similarly styled latest single, “Standing Room Only.”

McGraw closed with “Humble and Kind,” featuring beautiful harmonies from a selection of fifth and sixth graders from Metro Nashville Public Schools. After all, that’s what CMA Fest is all about: artist donating their time to raise money for the CMA Foundation, which supports music education.

As the clock struck midnight, Luke Bryan took the stage with a partying “That’s My Kind of Night.” Bryan performed his new single, “Glad I Got a Beer in My Hand,” which dropped after his Stagecoach appearance earlier this spring. But for the most part he kept to hits. Country music’s favorite party boy closed out the night—and CMA Fest—with seminal “Country Girls (Shake it for Me)” And “I Don’t Want This Night to End.” But end CMA Fest did, sadly. At least till next June.

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Matt Bailey
Matt Bailey

Matt Bailey is podcast producer and writer located in the Northeast. Since 2013, Bailey has produced more than 160 episodes of his own online radio show, Talk For Two. In 2016 alone, he interviewed Kevin Bacon, Crystal Gayle, Bob Barker, and Gilbert Gottfried, among several other stars. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, his focus is Broadway, country music and concert reviews.