The first major round of performers for the upcoming Academy of Country Music Awards telecast has been unveiled, and it includes a couple of the genre’s biggest 21st century stars — Miranda Lambert and Tim McGraw — as well as some of the biggest hitmakers of the moment, including Luke Combs, Maren Morris and Gabby Barrett.
Also announced as being on deck in this impressive first big rollout of talent for the Sept. 16 telecast are Kelsea Ballerini, Old Dominion, Jimmie Allen and the pairing of Thomas Rhett with Jon Pardi.
The ACMs’ announcement was unusual in that, besides declaring which songs the performers would be singing, it also delineated which venue they’d be singing them from. That’s a function of how untraditional the ACM Awards show is in general this year. Rather than take place from its usual berth in Las Vegas, as it would have if things had proceeded without a pandemic in April, the 2020 ACMs have moved to Nashville (a first in 55 years for the west coast-based Academy of Country Music) and are featuring live or pre-taped performances from the Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry House and the Bluebird Cafe.
Some of the heaviest hitters will be performing at the tiniest venue, the Bluebird (made more famous by the “Nashville” dramatic TV series). Perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising that that will serve as the location for a song actually called “Bluebird,” Lambert’s recent No. 1 single. Befitting the songwriters’ showcase nature of the venue, she’ll be joined by her co-writers on the tune, Natalie Hemby (of the Highwomen) and Luke Dick. The Bluebird will also be home base for McGraw to sing his recent single “I Called Mama,” Combs to perform “Better Together” and Allen to bring out another recent chart-topper, “Make Me Want To.”
Performances from the Ryman will be pre-recorded, since the Americana Honors are taking place live at that same storied venue the night of the telecast. Among those set to film performances at the so-called Mother Church of country music are Barrett, with her No. 1 “I Hope,” Morris, with her new single “To Hell & Back,” Ballerini doing “Hole in the Bottle,” Old Dominion performing a medley of hits, and Rhett and Pardi reteaming for their No. 1 duet “Beer Can’t Fix.”
Also performing from the Ryman are the two previously announced performers, Tenille Townes and Riley Green, whose appearances were revealed when they were announced ahead of the proceedings as the new female and new male category winners.
Still to be declared is who’ll be performing from the third and biggest location, the Opry House.
The ACMs have still not revealed whether there will be any limited audience on hand for the performances, although that was the very tentative hope when the new plan was first announced.
The three-hour ACM Awards show will be broadcast live on CBS Sept. 16 at 8 p.m ET and tape-delayed for the west coast in the same time slot. It will also be available for streaming on demand on CBS All Access. Keith Urban is on board as first-time host.