Annual event continues through the weekend

Day two of the 50th anniversary of CMA Fest kicked off with a bang. Reba McEntire was front and center throughout the day. It all started when I interacted with Reba during her Artist of the Day on the CMA Close Up Stage panel. She signed my TMU work shirt and confirmed fans will get to relive her first-ever performance at Madison Square Garden later this summer. Further details are expected before the July release.

The afternoon saw the flamed hair singer perform a rare show on Nashville’s famed Lower Broadway. She was the Friday Spotlight Performer at Spotify House at Blake Shelton and Opry Entertainment Group’s Ole Red venue. Many fans skipped the morning Q&A to guarantee a spot in front of the stage for the short matinee performance where she performed some of her biggest hits and premiered a new song, “Seven Minutes in Heaven.”

She returned for an appearance with Cody Johnson during his Nightly Concert Nissan Stadium set that night. Many fans expected she would join for their “Dear Rodeo” duet. Instead, she appeared for an acoustic version of her 1986 hit “Whoever’s In New England” to close out his set. CoJo regularly performs the song each night acoustically, but this night was magical as their voices soared through the stadium speakers.

It was Girl Power at Nissan Stadium as Tanya Tucker, Lainey Wilson and Miranda Lambert offered headline sets. While Hailey Whitters wowed on the platform stage, and Elle King made an appearance for Wilson’s rendition of Tucker’s hit “Texas (When I Die).” Of course, the legend joined in as well.

Elle King returned to duet with a pink-fringed Miranda Lambert on their hit “Drunk.” King’s voice is surprisingly country for an LA native who started as a pop artist.

Lambert than fully acknowledged her rock inspirations by bringing out Avril Lavigne for truncated “Kerosene” and Lavigne’s punk standard “Sk8er Boi.”

Keith Urban shredded, Lainey Wilson continued to prove herself a future Hall of Fame-worthy time, and Jelly Roll sang two songs center-arena.

It was CoJo who stole the show though, and not just for bringing out America’s favorite redhead. Johnson has that rare ability to take a room with tens of thousands of people and reach every single one individually. After his first number, “Let’s Build a Fire,” a new friend from England leaned down to me and said, “I believe that’s what they call country music.”

Day two for us also included interviews with Kimberly Perry, Ian Munsick, Randy Travis and others. All of our CMA Fest interviews will be shared later this month.

Carly Pearce, Luke Combs cap day one of 50th CMA Fest