Brad Paisley at the CMA Festival [Photo: Chris Willman]Brad Paisley performed "Beat This Summer" Sunday night at the closing show of the 2013 CMA Festival. But what he and his fellow headliners were really trying to beat was the rain.
Radar showed thunderstorms headed right for Nashville's LP Field, which would explain why Sunday night's show ended more than an hour early, as opposed to the previous couple of nights, when things ended up running about an hour late. About an hour into Sunday's climactic show, a decision was made to have the remaining performers only play a couple of tunes each, so that fans would have at least a sampling of these marquee acts before they headed back to their hometowns... and so ABC would have something of Paisley, the Band Perry, and Carrie Underwood on tape for the August 12 TV special.
It made for a weird night in which the historically oriented opening acts, Lee Greenwood and Lorrie Morgan, got to play considerably longer than the current superstars who were booked to close the show.
Paisley at least had time to bring out special guest Charlie Daniels to recreate his part on the recent album track "Karate." Unfortunately, the song is a bit tricky, and Daniels muffed his part under pressure, finally blurting out "Oh, hell" when he got impossibly lost in the jumble of lyrics, to everyone's amusement except maybe ABC's.
More successfully, Paisley got the audience to try out his new smartphone app during his "Summer" anthem, as he has at other tour stops. "What it does is, it takes your phone and turns it into a device that plays in time with the little click track to the song, and so everybody’s phone is the same color at the same time, flashing in time," he said backstage after his very abbreviated set. "Just now it looked fantastic out there. It looks like Christmas lights that are all in synch — and I’ve never seen Christmas lights in synch before."
The Band Perry relayed some feedback they'd gotten from followers at their annual fan club party.
The Band Perry [Chris Willman]"We heard a story earlier this week from a lady who had been unfortunately in an abusive relationship,," said Kimberly Perry backstage. "She let us know when she heard 'Done,' that was the catalyst to get out of that relationship. So we’ve been saying that song is breaking up folks everywhere."
They had an unusual format for their gathering of devotees. "At our fan party this year, we had a tell-all that somehow turned into true confessions with the Band Perry," Kimberly noted. "Neil whipped out his Luke Bryan impression, which apparently, according to Luke, got back to him. That was not supposed to leave the room." We asked Neil if he could break out his Bryan act, since the cat was already out of the bag, and he obliged. See his expert impression on an impromptu version of "Country Girl Shake It For Me" in the video clip below:
TBP are about to become official headliners, and not a moment or smash too soon. "Well, we’ve opened for Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Reba, Brad Paisley, and now Rascal Flatts," said Kimberly. In other words, who's left to tag along with? "We’ve gotten to be on all of our dream tours and we’ve learned so much from all of our heroes. The cool thing is, this year we’ve been mixing up some of our own little headlining shows, dipping our toes in the water, and having a heck of a lot of fans come out. So it just feels like the right time. Gratefully, we’ve had seven songs on the radio now — by the time we get back next year, hopefully a few more — so it just seems like the time to dig in."
Carrie Underwood [Chris Willman]Carrie Underwood is off-tour now, but she celebrated a different kind of opening in conjunction with the CMA Festival week: the debut of an exhibit at the Country Hall of Fame devoted to... her tour clothes. Only Taylor Swift has previously enjoyed that honor.
"We had four acts and then an encore in the show we had," she explained of the "Blown Away" tour, "so we had basically five different acts in the show." But that means more than just five sets of costumes. "I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t want to wear the same thing to work every day. I like to change stuff up, too. And also, being a lady, some days I’d feel... smaller than others," she explained with a laugh. "It was important to have things for every occasion and be at my most comfortable… And I would hear people say 'This is my fifth show'… So hopefully every time they came to a show, they would see something different — different accessories, different hair things, different shoes, a completely different outfit. That was important for me, to be able to have people come back and notice completely different things."
You know who else likes to talk about tour clothes? Mick Jagger.
"I was so excited to go home after the last date of our tour," Underwood recounted. "That day, my manager said, 'You might not be (going home).' I was thinking, nooooo! She said, 'Be-cauuuuuse the Rolling Stones want to meet you in Toronto and have you come play with them.' That was the only thing that could keep me from going home… I’ve been listening to them my whole life literally. My dad is a huge fan, so it’s just been in me since I was a baby. Talking to Mick on the phone about what we were gonna wear and what song we were gonna sing… it was very surreal."
Paisley backstage [Chris Willman]Paisley will be making a couple of interesting tour stops this fall, at Dartmouth and Berklee — not to do concert, but to do college seminars in response to the controversy over the Confederate flag-themed song he put out with LL Cool J.
"I’m looking forward to it," Paisley said of the university visits. "I've never done anything like that before. Those came about because of 'Accidental Racist.' There’s opinions on every end of the spectrum on that song, and I haven’t shied away from being aware of what people think. On the positive or the negative, I’d like to know. Because that was the point of the song — we don’t answer it. Anyway, I just wanted to make sure that I get a chance to sort of hear people out if they have issues with it, as well as tell my side of it."
Reaction to his Wheelhouse album has "been interesting, because it depends on where you look. My fans have been great... I hear nothing but great things from then. Then as you know, when it came out, certain things were talked about quite a bit, (with) a lot of speculation. Which is sort of what we were going for, but not necessarily all of it. When you’re gonna bring up topics like we brought up in a few of these songs and tackle sensitive things through questions, I fully expected to ruffle a few feathers. But the national attention it got was trange and really something I think is unprecedented for anything, especially an album cut. So none of us really knew what to do. But at the same time, my fans have been so fantastic about it, and I have so much love from them. We’re doing six or seven of the new ones in concert."