Imagine a show where Luke Bryan is the opening act. That’s how it went down at the annual “Team UMG at the Ryman” lunchtime show, Thursday afternoon, Feb. 23, one of the new traditions at Country Radio Seminar in Nashville.
Practically the entire roster of the Universal Music Group record company was on board, including Bryan and other award-winners like Keith Urban, Chris Stapleton, Vince Gill, Dierks Bentley and Lady Antebellum. Rounding out the noontime concert were Darius Rucker, Lauren Alaina, Sam Hunt, Easton Corbin, Jon Pardi, Billy Currington, Josh Turner and Kip Moore. Each act, save for the closer Keith Urban, played one song.
Bryan, arguably the most popular act in the format these days, actually served as the kickoff artist, prompting follow-up act Darius Rucker to comment how cool it was for Luke to open for him. There were early emotional highlights provided by Dierks Bentley and Lauren Alaina. Bentley performed his new single “Can’t Be Replaced,” inspired by the death of his beloved dog Jake, who is mentioned in the touching ballad. “I’m hoping to get a sympathy ovation,” he cracked. Alaina belted out her current hit “Three,” a somewhat autobiographical tune that she admitted, “Always makes me cry.” She managed to keep her composure throughout and earned a deserved standing ovation.
Sam Hunt delivered “Body Like a Back Road,” which is putting up some impressive numbers, including the big one: 7.3 million streams in one week, according to the label. Hunt also announced that he’ll be tying the marriage knot in a couple of months, to the likely disappointment of female fans around the globe.
Vince Gill was the only act to get his standing ovation before his performance, a fitting tribute for certain. The much-awarded Gill played a song he’d recently written for his wife Amy Grant for her birthday, prompting another standing ovation at the conclusion.
Keith Urban proved a fiery closer, beginning his set with a medley honoring many of the artists who passed away in 2016. Urban ripped through such selections as “Take It Easy,” his tribute to Eagles frontman Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” and Prince’s opus “Purple Rain.”
The show ended on an electrifying note. Urban lit into his current hit “Blue Ain’t Your Color” when Stapleton and Gill entered the stage to jam with him. Each took a solo turn on guitar and rocked the Ryman to the rooftop.