The Academy of Country Music Awards went big to celebrate its 50th year, with the emphasis on exciting performances and, of course, the awards.
Two of country music’s biggest superstars, Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan, served as hosts for the event at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, but it was Keith Urban and Eric Church who truly got the night started with their performances. The two teamed to perform Church’s “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag” and Urban’s “Raise ‘Em Up.”
It was then Florida Georgia Line’s turn to heat up the stage, performing “Sippin’ on Fire.” They would go on to win the second award of the night — vocal duo of the year, the same award they won in 2013.
More performances followed, including Dierks Bentley belting his single “Riser” on an elevated stage, Martina McBride singing “Independence Day” and co-host Bryan serenading the audience with “I See You.”
Shelton and Bryan revealed a big cause for celebrating, though: the show had broken a Guinness World Record, proving that everything is indeed bigger in Texas.
“This is our biggest show ever,” said Bryan.
“And an audience so big, we just made the Guinness Book of World Records,” Shelton added.
“That’s right, tonight, we are the most attended live awards show of all time,” Bryan said.
Lambert hit the stage once again to perform two of her biggest hits, “Mama’s Broken Heart” and “Little Red Wagon.” She would go on to win female vocalist of the year and album of the year for “Platinum.”
Veteran country singer Reba McEntire received one of the 50th anniversary milestone awards, being honored as the most awarded ACM female vocalist of the year. Kelly Clarkson then introduced her to the stage to perform “Going Out Like That.”
New artist of the year winner Cole Swindell put on his signature baseball cap to perform “Chillin’ It,” while vocal group of the year winner Little Big Town performed a stripped down version of their hit “Girl Crush.” Another new artist of the year nominee, Thomas Rett, performed “Make Me Wanna.”
The audience really hyped up, however when one of country’s biggest stars at the moment, Jason Aldean, took the stage for a four-song medley, starting with “Tonight Looks Good on Your” and going into a mix-up of “My Kinda Party,” “Hicktown” and “She’s Cuuntry.”
Not to be outdone by his co-host Bryan, Shelton took the stage to perform his hit “Sangria” while wife Lambert danced in the audience. Christina Aguilera made her first appearance at the show to join Rascal Flatts in singing “Riot.”
Garth Brooks, who also won a milestone award at the show, was armed with a red, white and blue guitar as he performed “All-American Kid.” Soldiers walked down the aisles and stood on stage during the performance, earning a standing ovation from the audience.
In an emotional moment of the night, Taylor Swift’s mother, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, presented the songstress with one of the milestone awards. Swift took the opportunity to thank the country community for their support after she announced her first official pop album, the chart-topping “1989.”
“To the country music community, when I told you that I had made a pop album and that I wanted to go explore other genres, you showed me who you are with the grace that you accepted that with,” she said. “I will never forget it.”
Kenny Chesney performed his hits “Young” and “Wild Child” before accepting his milestone award, presented by Church, who told him, “Thank you for loving music and loving life and for giving all of us up here a great life.”
Vocal group of the year nominee Lady Antebellum perked up the audience with their set, performing “Long Stretch of Love,” before the show took a turn for the pop. Nick Jonas appeared on stage to sing his hits “Jealous” and “Chains” with vocal duo of the year nominee Dan + Shay.
Alan Jackson brought it back to another emotional note, singing “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” on the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. He also performed the song at the 2001 awards, after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The winner of the biggest honor of the night, though, ended up being co-host Bryan, who won entertainer of the year.