Last year the Nashville trio Lady Antebellum, right, – “Lady A” to their fans – didn’t win the one category they were nominated in last year (for Top Vocal Group), but this year it’s a whole new story. They’re the favored front-runner, with seven nominations for Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Lady Antebellum’s free performance drew a huge crowd to Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas last night. Some said the show drew upwards to 20,000 people. If so, that would make it the largest non-New Year’s Eve gathering ever on Glitter Gulch and the biggest in the four-year tradition of ACM-related concerts.
Nominated for seven awards, the group attended last Wednesday’s “American Idol” show and did a post-show taping of their hit “Need You Now.” Their performance will be part of the “Idol Gives Back” show next week.
Lady Antebellum announced on Friday that their latest, “American Honey,” was the band’s third consecutive No. 1. Lady Antebellum’s current single, “Need You Now,” is No. 4 on Billboard’s overall Hot 100 song chart, sandwiched between Train and Lady Gaga.
Miranda Lambert, right, a six-time nominee for Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards show, though, will prove tough competition. She heads an ACM-filled lineup of free concerts tonight at the Fremont Street Experience. Lambert performs from 10:45 to midnight on the Third Street stage. Kicking off the evening from 7-7:30 p.m. at the First Street stage will be Joey + Rory, the Top Vocal Duo nominee. Gloriana, the Top New Vocal Group nominee, plays from 7:45-8:25 p.m., also at the First Street stage. The Randy Rogers Band, nominated for Top Vocal Group, performs from 8:40-9:25 p.m. on the Third Street stage. Luke Bryan, winner of the Top New Solo vocalist award, precedes Lambert, from 9:40-10:30 p.m., performing on the First Street stage.
If you’re lucky enough to catch Lambert and others tonigt performing live in Las Vegas, it’s a good deal. The ceremonies at the MGM Grand Garden are a pricey ticket if you don’t have friends at a record label, topping out at $450 for something you can watch free at home. (The 5 p.m. festivities air on CBS, live on the East Coast and tape-delayed on Las Vegas KLAS-TV, Channel 8, at 8 p.m.)
Most of the ACM stars will stick around Monday in Las Vegas for “Brooks & Dunn — The Last Rodeo,” an all-star tribute concert that will be taped at the MGM for a separate CBS show airing next month. Tickets are $108 to $208 for the 7:30 p.m. show in which the likes of Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and George Strait will salute the venerable duo of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn before they hang it up.
The ACM Awards ride country music’s ever-growing popularity; what once was a niche genre is getting harder to distinguish from any remaining notions of a separate pop world.
Last year’s ACM broadcast drew 14.8 million total viewers, a 26 percent gain from the year before. “It’s a happy problem,” says Barry Adelman, a producer and writer for the broadcast. “We’re not trying to fix something that’s dipping, we’re trying to keep something that’s going up, going up even higher.”
And lest we forget…Garth Brooks isn’t performing at Wynn Las Vegas this weekend. But Steve Wynn did buy him that private jet and the pilot surely knows the route by now. And who would want to leave that guy out of a weekend like this one?