Oklahoma native Reba McEntire is returning tonight to host the 45th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards. It’s her 12th time to host the show. (Associated Press file photo)
7 p.m.: Oklahoma girl power already is dominating the ACMs, with Reba McEntire immediately kicking it over to fellow Okies Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, who are belting a high-octane version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Travelin’ Band,” with Brad Paisley and CCR’s John Fogerty wailing away on dueling guitars. I’m not sure that show openers get any bigger than this, though some country purists may not approve of the country/swamp rock tone.
Charlie Daniels (AP file photo)
7:03: OK, I guess the show opener can get a bit bigger, when you add Charlie Daniels sawing away on his fiddle. It’s good to see him looking, well, fit as a fiddle after his recent health problems. “That’s how you start a television show, son!” he exclaims. And judging from the standing ovation, the celebs are as pumped as I am.
7:05: “Wow, take that Las Vegas,” exclaims Reba. She looks as gorgeous as ever in a sparkling black column, showing off her bare back and claiming that with the push-up bra and all the boning, “there’s more special effects going on here than in ‘Avatar.’” The red-haired spitfire is showing off why she keeps getting the hosting gig with her good-natured jabs at all eight entertainer of the year nominees, along with Tiger Woods, Jesse James and Kirstie Alley. You gotta love Reba. Who can resist this woman?
7:09: Reba says that two of the entertainer nominees are not here tonight: George Strait has a family obligation that has kept him away, and the Zac Brown Band will appear tonight via satellite since they’re on a USO tour in the Middle East. Good for the Atlanta country-rockers.
Cher (AP file photo)
7:10: We’re 10 minutes in and on our second standing O as the crowd pays tribute to the night’s first presenter: Cher. Cher is reminding the crowd of her country creds: Her mom played with “a little band called Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.” She’s introducing Oklahoman Blake Shelton, who will be performing his rowdy No. 1 hit “Hillbilly Bone” with buddy Trace Adkins. This is such a fun show.
7:12: Fun fact for Oklahoma country fans: So far, every moment of this show has somehow involved a star with Okie ties. Take that, lesser 49 states!
7:15: “Thank you all so much for giving us this award tonight,” Blake says as the song fades. The duo already won the vocal event of the year award for “Hillbilly Bone.” “I can’t believe he won,” Trace adds. “What the hell do you mean we can’t believe we won?” Blake counters. Trace said on the orange carpet that three rehearsals with Blake in a week had taken a toll on their friendship, but I didn’t realize it was this bad. They need duet partners counseling, stat!
7:17: We’re going immediately to another rollicking performance, with Billy Currington playing his latest hit, “That’s How Country Boys Roll.” Love the perpetual twinkle in his eye.
7:18: Apparently, the reports that the ACMs would pack 22 performances in three hours wasn’t just hype: We’re immediately going to another toe-tapping country hit. His Tanness Kenny Chesney, star of the upcoming movie “Kenny Chesney’s Summer in 3-D,” is rocking through “Ain’t Back Yet.” Whew!
7:21: We’re getting a reminder that you can still vote for entertainer of the year via text or Web. To vote online, go to www.VoteACM.com.
7:26: Reba claims the ACMs are going green this year – all the scripts are printed on recycled Larry King divorce papers. Tee-hee. Love her. She introducing the “woman who has what any woman wants, including Tim McGraw.” Faith Hill – wearing a elegantly draped bright white frock that I love – is giving the first award, song of the year, and we’ve got Okies competing here.
Song of the Year [Awarded to Composer(s)/Publisher(s)/Artist(s)]
* Cowboy Casanova – Carrie Underwood
Composers: Mike Elizondo, Brett James, Carrie Underwood
Publishers: Brett James, Cornelius Music (ASCAP), Carrie Okie Music (BMI), Rincon Ave Music
(ASCAP), Stage Three Songs (ASCAP)
· Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
Composers: Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott
Publishers: EMI Foray Music (BMI), Darth Buddha (ASCAP), Dwhaywood Music (BMI), Hillary Dawn Publishing (SESAC), Radiobullets Publishing (BMI), Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI), Year Of The Dog Music (ASCAP)
· People Are Crazy – Billy Currington
Composers: Bobby Braddock, Troy Jones
Publishers: Crozier Music Enterprises, LLC (BMI), Mighty Nice Music (BMI), Sony /ATV Tree Publishing (BMI), Tiltawhirl Music (BMI)
* White Liar – Miranda Lambert
Composers: Natalie Hemby, Miranda Lambert
Publishers: Pink Dog Publishing (BMI), Sony / ATV Tree Publishing (BMI), Tiltawhirl Music (BMI)
· You Belong With Me – Taylor Swift
Composers: Liz Rose, Taylor Swift
Publishers: Sony / ATV Tree Publishing (BMI), Taylor Swift Music (BMI)
7:29: Winner: Lady Antebellum. The trio is riding a streak as hot as Hillary Scott’s pink gown. They’re excited as they think their fans, songwriter and Charles Kelley sweetly thanks his wife.
Laura Bell Bundy (AP photo)
7:30: Reba says we should get ready to get our socks knocked off: Broadway-star-turned-country-singer Laura Bell Bundy, who played Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde” on Broadway, is performing her country single “Giddy on Up.” She is fusing the Great White Way, Nashville and Vegas with her theatrical performance, frolicking around the stage in a halter top, jeans, fringed chaps, dessert plate-size belt buckle and cowboy boots. It’s hard to judge the quality of her voice because quite frankly she seems surprisingly breathless. I expected an experienced Broadway song-and-dance gal to give a more polished awards show performance. It’s fun and sassy, but she might have done better if she had concentrated more on singing and less on dancing and prancing.
Wayman Tisdale and Toby Keith (Tulsa World Archive photo)
7:39: Reba McEntire is paying tribute to Oklahoma basketball-player-turned-jazz-bassist Wayman Tisdale, who died last year after a long battle with cancer. She now is turning it over to Oklahoman Toby Keith and jazz sax player Dave Koz, who are playing Toby’s emotional memorial to Tisdale, “Cryin’ for Me (Wayman’s Song),” lots of great photos of Wayman’s bright smile on the screens in the background. The performance is this year’s ACM Lifting Lives project, with proceeds from downloads going to the charity Stand Up to Cancer. It’s a great, heartfelt song, and I only like it more now. Great performance, and several of Tisdale’s family members are there, tears streaming down there faces, to witness it. Lovely moment.
7:43: Another standing O for that great performance. Go to iTunes now to download the performance in honor of Wayman and to benefit Stand Up Cancer.
7:44: Reba is reminding us that the Home Depot is presenting the ACM Humanitarian Award later tonight; I heard on the orange carpet before the show that this year’s winner is Montgomery Gentry. She’s also showing a video montage of Zac Band Brown’s USO tour in the Middle East. We’ve apparently reached the charity segment of the show, and if you don’t have a warm-fuzzy feeling, you probably have a chunk of granite where your heart outta be.
7:52: Country singer Joe Nichols and Olympic gold medal skier Lindsey Vonn – who looks fabulous in her vivid orange dress but sounds awkward delivering canned awards show banter – are presenting the single of the year award. Will it be another win for Lady A or will we get an Okie win?
Single Record of the Year [Awarded to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company(s)]
· Need You Now – Lady Antebellum (Capitol Records Nashville)
Produced by: Lady Antebellum, Paul Worley
· People Are Crazy – Billy Currington (Mercury)
Produced by: Carson Chamberlain, Billy Currington
· Red Light – David Nail (MCA Nashville)
Produced by: Frank Liddell, Mike Wrucke
· Toes – Zac Brown Band (Southern Ground / Bigger Picture / Atlantic)
Produced by: Keith Stegall, Zac Brown
* White Liar – Miranda Lambert (Columbia Nashville)
Produced by: Frank Liddell, Mike Wrucke
Lady Antebellum (AP file photo)
7:54: Winner: Lady A again. Hillary says, “I don’t think this can compare to a gold medal.” Charles Kelley tells the crowd, “We’re living our dream. This is what we’ve waited our whole life for.” Kudos to them to giving their producer a moment at the mike and for thanking the players on their sophomore album.
8 p.m.: The perpetually hot LL COOL J says this is his first country music awards “And I am blown away. I love it. I love it.” He’s introducing a “Fearless” performer who turned her daydreams into songs and has “made her way onto the charts and into our hearts.” Must be time for Taylor Swift to perform, and I’m just hoping we get live-in-concert-level Taylor and not bad-Grammy-performance Taylor.
8:02: Taylor is wearing a flowing white gown and singing her anthem “Change” on a sort of platform in the middle of the crowd, and now the dais is soaring her over the audience. She’s pulling one of her favorite tricks, stripping away her dress to reveal a spangly black pantsuit. She’s got the University of California San Diego’s choir the Tritones backing up her and her band, and while not perfect, it’s a much better singing performance than we’ve heard from her in awhile. She ends her performance by diving off the stage and being carted away up the aisle. Definitely an improvement over the Grammys. Like her shows and songs, it’s theatrical, but she’s not getting so hyped up she can’t even sing.
8:07: Julianne Hough – another celeb wearing a flowing bright white dress adorned with silver sparkles, which seems to be the trend of the night so far – is introducing the heir to her current throne: ACM top new artist. We’re hearing a quite performance from each of the noms: Gloriana, Luke Bryan and Joey + Rory before the fan-voted winner is announced. These are some talented noms, but I have a soft spot for Joey + Rory. You gotta love a man who wears overalls anywhere, including an awards show in Vegas, and a big-voiced wife who adores him just as he is.
8:10: Winner: Luke Bryan. He looks so incredibly relieved and happy, you have to be happy for him. He’s getting a standing O as he shouts “Woo! Thank you fans. Thank you. It’s impossible for a human to shake more than I am right now.” He’s thanking his wife, producer, label, mama and daddy, hometown, etc. He becomes the first victim of the dreaded awards show go-away-your-time-is-up-music, just as he thanks his brother up in Heaven. Faux pas, ACMs.
8:12: Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum is strumming the opening chords of Lady Antebellum’s third No. 1 hit, “American Honey.” Hillary Scott definitely gets style points. She’s swapped her elegantly pleated hot pink dress for another well-fitted long gown, this one crimson and black with a flowing skirt. I really love Lady A, and they are just on fire these days. They’re already won two big awards tonight, and they sound so good playing together.
8:18: We haven’t seen Reba in awhile. And she hasn’t done a wardrobe change yet. This show needs a Reba fix.
8:21: Told you it was time for more Reba, and she’s wearing a new gown, this time a silvery-lilac frock with a full skirt. Very pretty with her hair. She’s introducing Rascal Flatts, joking they are singing Toyota’s theme song, “Unstoppable.” It’s their latest power ballad, and as usual, Picher’s Joe Don Rooney is making us proud on guitar. Gary LeVox seems to be having a bit of problem with his earpiece; he’s touched it and sounds just a bit off tempo. Still sounds pretty on, though.
8:24: Actress Kristen Bell is coming out in a short beige dress – just a weird fashion statement, if you ask me – to give out the album of the year award. Can Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert stop Lady A’s momentum? Can anyone?
Album of the Year [Awarded to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company(s)]
· American Saturday Night – Brad Paisley (Arista Nashville)
Produced by: Chris DuBois, Frank Rogers
· Lady Antebellum – Lady Antebellum (Capitol Records Nashville)
Produced by: Victoria Shaw, Paul Worley
* Play On – Carrie Underwood (19/Arista Nashville)
Produced by: Mark Bright
“Quitter,” Produced by Max Martin & Shellback for Maratone Productions and Mark Bright
* Revolution – Miranda Lambert (Columbia Nashville)
Produced by: Frank Liddell, Mike Wrucke
· The Foundation – Zac Brown Band (Southern Ground / Bigger Picture / Atlantic)
Produced by: Keith Stegall, Zac Brown
8:26: Winner: Oh, yeah, Miranda Lambert. I’m not the only one who loves it; the crowd is on its feet. She’s hugging her beau, Blake Shelton, and then making her way up to the stage, where she encourages her producer, Frank Liddell, to come to the stage so he can give his thank yous, too.
“This music is what I do. It’s the only thing I live for, and thanks for loving it. Really, changed my life,” she says before turning the mike over to Liddell. But just as he begins to thank his wife, the go-away music starts, drowning him out. This gets a “really?!” from Miranda and smattering of boos from the crowd, before the announcer quickly declares they’re going to show another video montage from Zac Brown Band’s USO tour. Awkward. Again, faux pas. They are really striking out with the go-away music; really poor timing on someone’s part.
8:29: Now that we’ve seen more of ZBB’s USO trip, we’re going to give the show another shot of adrenaline, with Jason Aldean playing “Crazy Town.” It’s been a huge year for this Georgia country-rocker, I’m surprised he’s not riding high on any ACM noms tonight. Just seems wrong. He’s not letting it stop him from rocking the joint.
8:32: We’ve got a commercial now and then performances from Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert coming up. Would not put it past Miranda to give someone a piece of her mind after they done her producer wrong during their acceptance speech.
8:38: Miranda is back, crooning her emotional new single “The House That Built Me.” She’s wearing a short, sassy black dress and long ear dangles, but it’s not one of her foot-stomping, firebrand performances. Instead, it’s a powerful and relatable ode to the house where you grow up. It’s a very pretty song and a look at a different side to Miranda.
8:41: Miranda again has the crowd on its feet and cheering for her as she finishes her really great performance.
8:42: Now, Lee Ann Rimes – cute short purple dress – is taking over to present the Home Depot Humanitarian Award. Rimes won it last year, and this year, it’s going to duo Montgomery Gentry. And we’ve got another standing O for Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry. “This is definitely a very humbling moment right now, because … there are so many great humanitarians in Nashville and in this industry,” Gentry says with his voice shaking with emotion. Eddie declares “this is the greatest country in the world” before dedicating the award to all the volunteers out there, all the American heroes, their lives and family.
8:45: Lee Ann now is showing – da da dun – a montage. Shudder. It’s a video mash-up of what the country stars have been doing in Vegas this week. So much for what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
8:46: Jack Ingram and Dierks Bentley are getting the show back on track with their honky-tonk duet “Barbie Doll.” It’s one of those terrific cautionary tales that country does so well, and Jack is helping a whole pack of ladies onto the small stage to dance and singing along. They seem like they’re having a ball.
8:53: Reba McEntire is wishing Carrie Underwood “luck in love” with her man, since the Checotah native is getting ready to get married this summer. I’m telling you, she’s going to have a hard time matching the absolutely gorgeous gown she’s wearing as she croons her heartwrenching hit “Temporary Home.” It’s a long lavender dress, with a huge floor-length skirt and a lovely floral pattern that really looks great with her blond hair and skin tone. It’s a beautiful performance, too, with Carrie’s big voice accompanied by just a violin and cello. It’s another wow moment for the Okie delegation, and that was even before all the petal-like confetti began raining from the sky.
Carrie Underwood (AP file photo)
8:58: As the audience gives yet another standing O, Reba is presenting Carrie with the special ACM Triple-Crown Award, saying that the “American Idol” champ merits it for winning the top new female vocalist, top female vocalist and last year’s entertainer of the year award. Apologizes for not being able to keep it together, wiping away tears as she thanks the fans, God and country music. Congratulations to Carrie. Not only does the award put her in an elite group, as she pointed out, it also has a cut little sparkly pink cowboy hat on top of it.
9 p.m. Eddie Cibrian of “CSI: Miami” – hello, CBS homer – is onstage to present the top vocal group award. I think the winner is a forgone conclusion at this point, but here are the noms anyway:
Top Vocal Group of the Year
• Lady Antebellum
• Little Big Town
• Randy Rogers Band
* Rascal Flatts
• Zac Brown Band
Lady Antebellum (AP file photo)
9:01: Winner: Yep, another trophy for Lady A. “We will never forget this night,” declares Charles Kelley, as Dave Haywood expresses his gratitude for belonging to “the greatest genre in the world.”
Tim McGraw (AP file photo)
9:05: Tim McGraw is giving a wonderful performance of his evocative new song “Still.” But enough of the cutaways to Faith Hill. We’ve seen more of his wife than we have of the actual guy singing the song. Sheesh.
Brad Paisley (Photo by Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman Archives)
9:11: Brad Paisley is playing and singing his fun downhome single “Water.” Cue amazing guitar solo. He’s so awesome, and this is just reminding me of the great show he put on in Oklahoma City earlier this year. Good times. He’s taking a little stroll through crowd now while playing yet another intricate guitar solo. The man has magic fingers, I’m telling you. And he caps it off by giving away his water-blue colored guitar and falling into a pool under the stage. He’s giving a very damp tip of the hat to the screaming crowd. Gotta love it.
9:15: Uh oh, Matthew McConaughey is back at the ACMs and he’s carrying a pair of black boots. He’s telling Carrie Underwood “I brought those boots,” and she’s grinningly taking the stage to receive them. If you’ll remember, last year McConaughey presented the entertainer of the year prize, but before he did, he told a story about how he got lucky by telling girls at a bar that he was George Strait’s personal bootmaker and inviting him back to his hotel room to see George’s boots. After she won entertainer, Carrie joked in her speech, “Matthew, I’d like to see those boots.” She took them with a gleam in her eye as sassy as her short white dress.
Matthew has another funny story: He’s now sharing that he and girlfriend Camila Alves conceived their daughter after last year’s ACMs. “We’re gonna try not to get quite so lucky this year,” he cracks. “Two is enough.”
He’s not just here to tell stories, Matthew is going to present top male vocalist:
Top Male Vocalist of the Year
· Kenny Chesney
· Brad Paisley
· Darius Rucker
· George Strait
· Keith Urban
Brad Paisley (AP file photo)
9:18: Winner: Brad Paisley, who takes the stage smiling and dabbing himself with a towel. The always hilarious Paisley asks Matthew, “Hey can I borrow your shirt? You’re used to going without one. By the way, my wife says hi and she loved playing your wife in ‘We Are Marshall.’ She says I’m a better kisser, but y’all didn’t have any kissing scenes in that movie, so I’m not sure how she knows that. Anyway, I better get through this.” He’s thanking all the usual folks, ending with “my wife, who’s probably mad.” I wonder if Kimberly Williams-Paisley is about to become the queen of the rolling-pin beatdown.
Brooks & Dunn (AP file photo)
9:24: Reba is emotionally and with much fanfare introducing Brooks & Dunn, who are about to do their last ACM performance as a duo. The fans voted, and the winning song is “My Maria.” Great song, but “You’re Gonna Miss Me” would have been more appropriate. The performance starts a little rough, with the sound just sounding plain wonky, which is the danger of no one knowing ’til the last minute what an artist is going to play. Still, former Tulsan is howling out the memorable chorus to “My Maria” beautifully, and the audience is up to dance and sing along. And Ronnie finishes the song on a strong note.
Brooks & Dunn is starting their “Last Rodeo Tour” on Friday, and the tour will be coming to Tulsa’s BOK Center next month.
9:29: Carrie Underwood is back, this time with Randy Travis to present the top vocal duo award. Will Brooks & Dunn get one last trophy?
* Brooks & Dunn
· Joey + Rory
· Montgomery Gentry
· Steel Magnolia
Brooks & Dunn
9:30: WINNER: While Randy fumbles the intro, Carrie can’t wait to scream out Brooks & Dunn!
“We are currently in therapy with Brett Favre trying to figure out how to waffle on this,” Kix Brooks jokes, after thanking the fans for crowd and fans for an amazing 20 years. Ronnie just gives a simple wave and thank you.
There may have been no suspense and a good deal of sentiment involved, but it definitely was a deserving honor for Brooks & Dunn, who have been just an incredible act. Kudos. And the chairs in the Grand Garden Arena are getting hardly any wear tonight; the audience is spending more time on its feet than in the seats.
Reba (AP file photo)
9:37: Reba has changed again; this time she’ s radiant in a long shimmery pinkish-lavender gown. I’m seeing a lot of lavender and lilac on the ladies tonight. She’s crooning her ballad “I Keep on Lovin’ You” while old photos of country greats like Johnny Cash, George Strait and Kris Kristofferson with their wives show on the giant video screen. Very sweet.
9:41: Josh Duhamel has clearly been taking fashion tips from his wife Fergie: He’s wearing an eye-searingly gaudy silver suit to present the top female vocalist award. Here are the noms, and we’ve got three Okie ladies in it:
Top Female Vocalist of the Year
* Miranda Lambert
* Reba McEntire
• Taylor Swift
* Carrie Underwood
• Lee Ann Womack
9:42: Winner: Miranda Lambert. She actually turns to Blake Shelton and asks, “Did he just say me?” She gets a huge hug from Carrie Underwood, who she prevented from getting four female vocalist trophies in a row, and then takes the stage to declare “You have got to be kidding me.” After a shoutout to her fellow noms – and a dig at the producers who cut her last acceptance speech short – she thanks the Lord for making her life so great.
Keith Urban (AP file photo)
9:48: It’s a cute concept on paper, but not easy on the eyes or stomach: We’re getting the whole handheld, shaky-cam treatment on Keith Urban’s performance of his latest super-peppy love song “I’m In.” Usually looking at the Aussie star is a treat for the eys, but he’s looking a little grainy here. I vote we go with the standard cinematography ideal of making people look good from now on. And again, do we need to cut away to the famous wife every 30 seconds? Is it really that interesting that Nicole Kidman knows the words to her spouse’s next song? Is the editor of Us Weekly holding a gun on the producer and forcing these obvious and annoying cutaways?
9:54: Reba McEntire is dressed in her best color ever, a bright green gown, to announce the entertainer of the year. Here are the eight options, one more time:
• Kenny Chesney
* Toby Keith
• Brad Paisley
• George Strait
• Taylor Swift
* Carrie Underwood
• Keith Urban
• Zac Brown Band
Carrie Underwood (AP file photo)
9:56: Winner: Carrie Underwood for the second straight year! She’s getting a big hug from Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, then dashing up to the stage and rapidly and breathlessly thanking everyone she can thank of, while randomly tossing in asides like “I think I just got makeup all over Brad Paisley. Kim, it was me” and “My phone is buzzing.” She ends her rushed speech by jumping around in circles. That was just adorable. But the excitement is worthwhile: She is the first female to win two ACM entertainer prizes.
9:58: Darius Rucker is playing us out of the show with his uplifting anthem “Forever Road.” It’s a big, upbeat and rather appropriate ending to a really fun night. It was particularly exciting for Oklahoma stars and fans, with wins for Carrie, Miranda, Brooks & Dunn and Blake Shelton, plus huge performances from even more Okies. Other states can just writhe in envy.
10: “Great job, Darius!,” Reba says, hugging the sweaty, smiling singer formerly known as Hootie. “We love y’all. Good night!” And it was, Reba. You got that right.
Guys, I’m going to file a story for the paper, add a few photos to this live blog and then post your winners list in a bit. Look for an ACM wrap-up Monday. Good night!