Lindale’s Miranda Lambert stole the show at AT&T Stadium Sunday night, winning three Academy of Country Music awards including her sixth consecutive award for female vocalist of the year.
Show co-host Luke Bryan took home the entertainer of the year honors, closing the show with a rush of thank-yous and a big hug for co-host Blake Shelton. Jason Aldean won for male vocalist.
Lambert, whose attention to musical diversity and lyrical substance puts her above many country artists today, also was honored for song of the year for “Automatic” and album for Platinum.
“I don’t even know what’s happening to me tonight,” Lambert said before thanking her fans after the vocalist award. That trophy was presented by a trio that included Dallas golfer Jordan Spieth, wearing the freshly earned green jacket of a Masters champion.
Earlier in the night, Lambert performed one of her best tunes, “Mama’s Broken Heart,” in mostly red and black to match the rest of her set. Then she moved into the even sassier “Little Red Wagon.” It was a lot of fun, but it would be nice to hear her showcase those powerful pipes on one of her slower and more tender tunes.
Lambert also was one of seven recipients of the 50th Anniversary Milestone Award. Receiving special recognition throughout the show were Garth Brooks, George Strait, Reba McEntire, Kenny Chesney, Brooks & Dunn and Taylor Swift.
In other awards, Florida Georgia Line won for vocal duo, and Little Big Town was honored as vocal group of the year. Cole Swindell was named best new artist, while Lee Brice won for his single “I Don’t Dance.”
During her tribute, McEntire easily overcame the stadium sound issues during a breakneck medley of hits including, naturally, “Fancy.” I also think she’s got a winner with the new single “Going Out Like That,” which ended her mini set. People knew the words and were singing along.
It’s increasingly rare for legacy country acts to get as much airplay as their younger counterparts, but this tune might prove an exception. McEntire’s daughter-in-law and the pride of Burleson, Kelly Clarkson, presented the milestone award to McEntire after the performance. Their sparkly dresses were complementary enough that we wondered if they’d planned it.
Taya Kyle, the widow of the late “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, was on hand to make Brooks’ presentation.
Brooks scored a huge, dramatic moment while performing his patriotic story tune “All-American Kid” — not with stage tricks or a stunning vocal, but by inviting members of the armed forces to march out and soak up the crowd’s love.
Brooks followed that moment by accepting his Milestone Award and acknowledging the Texas honky-tonks that gave him early breaks.
Swift’s mother Andrea Finlay presented her with the Milestone Award. Swift announced recently that her mom has been diagnosed with cancer, but Finlay’s eloquent comments on stage were all about her daughter’s musical rise. And Swift thanked the country music establishment for accepting and being kind about her move into pop.
While it was an awards show, the night was all about the performances.
Aldean ignited the audience when he slid down a scary looking slide and launched into “My Kinda Party” after the audience seemed lukewarm about the first tune he did. At the end of his medley, during “She’s Country,” real fireworks went off behind the stage. I felt a little heat.
Rascal Flatts and Christina Aguilera sounded powerful together doing her single “Shotgun,” which she recorded recently for her guest-starring stint on ABC’s Nashville. Neither she nor Gary LeVox went too crazy with the vocal runs — they kept it simple and tasteful. Can Xtina cross over to country completely? Probably. With the constant blending of genres these days, it’d be nothing out of the ordinary.
The award for the least country moment of the evening goes to Dan and Shay and Nick Jonas, whose performance of “Jealous” and “Chains” sounded fine but contained not a trace of the genre this awards show is celebrating. The screams were abundant for Jonas, however, who has a history of driving teen girls crazy with his brothers in this venue.