When Las Vegas hosts a party, stand back- nothing is ever commonplace in the City of Entertainment. Last night’s 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Arena proved to be no exception. The buzz of the award’s evening followed a week of Las Vegas fun, glitz, and glamour as Hollywood stars joined with country music’s best and brightest.
The three-hour awards show featured award presenters Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jamie Foxx and Matthew McConaughey, but all eyes were on legendary Reba McEntire as she hosted the show for the 11th consecutive year.
Providing a fitting prelude to the awards, hundreds of frenzied fans greeted their favorite musicians and singers on the red carpet outside of the MGM Grand before the show.
After Kenny Chesney performed “Out Last Night”, Jennifer Love Hewitt arrived on stage wearing in a long white flowing gown and announced the first award of the night for Song of the Year among award contenders George Strait, Jamey Johnson, Heidi Newfield, Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins.
Jennifer said she was not only a big fan of country music but also of Vegas. “There’s no place I’d rather be,” she said before announcing, in a surprise win, that Jamey Johnson had won for “In Color.”
In the competition for Top Vocal Duo award, the very popular Sugarland beat out Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Montgomery Gentry and Joey + Rory. Sugarland is playing at live in concert at the Primm Valley Casino Resorts on July 24. [Las Vegas Backstage Access February 11 article.]
Las Vegas resident, MGM Grand illusionist and Magician of the Century David Copperfield, a coming-out country music fan that attended the ACM for the first time, donned a black Stetson while he pulled up his sleeves and made Taylor Swift magically appear from an overhead empty suspended box on the stage. Swift hung around a bit to receive her crystal award for having the most record sales in the year and winning the Album of the Year Award for “Fearless.”
Hollywood superstar and frequent Las Vegas entertainer Jamie Foxx, raised in Texas, confessed he was also a country music fan and then proceeded to introduce country music legend George Strait, saying he will be a guest singer for his friend at a taping in Las Vegas today for a May 27 CBS special when Strait is honored as Artist of the Decade. Straight, with a career spanning 25 years, is the most nominated artist in the history of the Academy of Country Music Awards with a total of 78.
Las Vegas’ hometown product Julianne Hough – she attended Las Vegas Academy and her mother lives here – provided a Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction moment, though subtle, before gushing and accepting with pride her duo Top New Artist and fan favorite Top New Female Artist awards as her country singer boyfriend Chuck Wicks waited in the wings, cheering her on.
Julianne and Chuck left this morning from Las Vegas on a flight to be back in Hollywood for tomorrow night’s episode of Dancing With the Stars, where they will partner for a Viennese Waltz to a Rascal Flatts number. (Rascal Flatts won once again.)
The highlight and culmination of the evening came when Carrie Underwood won the Entertainer of the Year award, being the lone female among nominees Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait and Keith Urban. Matthew McConaughey made the awards presentation. (Did she really venture out after the event and check out George Strait’s ‘white boots’ in McConaughey’s car?)
There was never a dull moment. Even before it started, Tim McGraw got in a production fracas that ended with him walking out before the show started.
Sporting his ‘Made In USA’ labeled guitar, John Rich sang to a cheering crowd “Shutting Detroit Down,” a ballad of frustration on corporate greed and workers getting the short end of the proverbial stick.
Toby Keith took the opportunity to single out a reporter from a Nashville newspaper over the publication of a Rolling Stone story by actor Ethan Hawke. Both Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson denied the story, but the Tennessean published it anyway without reaching out to Toby. He lambasted the reporter with a series of F-bombs, and it seriously looked as if he might leave the media stage and go after the writer — but cooler heads prevailed, and Toby left the room abruptly.
Behind the scenes, Trace Adkins, who was the runner-up on the first season of Celebrity Apprentice, took a verbal shot at this season’s participant Dennis Rodman. Trace said that if the former bad boy of basketball didn’t change his ways, it would wind up killing him.
All this action in just one grand and glorious Las Vegas evening.