It was hard to think about awards Sunday night when Carrie Underwood made her first TV appearance since falling and Chris Stapleton’s wife Morgane gave birth to twin boys, all in the same day.
Still the Academy of Country Music proceeded on, giving Stapleton two, Best Male Vocalist and Best Album.
Underwood took the Best Event prize (with Keith Urban), but her performance of “Cry Pretty” was probably the entertainment highlight of the night. Wearing silver glitter (that looked like dripping mascara), she had the audience standing from the start of her song. And she didn’t disappoint. The performance was incredible; the song is a likely contender for next year’s prizes.
When Underwood returned to pick up the trophy with Urban, she admitted she was still a bit shaken by the response. Understandable.
She didn’t get the Female Vocalist prize -- that went to Miranda Lambert, who moved into the lead (over Brooks and Dunn) as the all-time winner of ACM awards. She also got Best Song for “Tin Man.”
Back to host after a handful of years, Reba McEntire pulled off one good joke before relying on a bunch that could have served her well more than a dozen years ago. Referencing Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley, who replaced her in those intervening years, “I guess they figured out it only takes one woman to do the job of two men.”
She said the show was paying tribute to 1993 (why this is a thing, we don’t know), so veterans like Alan Jackson, Toby Keith and McEntire got stage time. (She sang “Does He Love You” with Kelly Clarkson and – get this – she wore the dress she wore years ago.)
Most of the newcomers either had duets with non-country folks or clothing that might have made Loretta Lynn blush.
Little Big Town dressed in their best Elton John wear to sing “Rocket Man.” The quartet didn’t win Best Group (that went to Old Dominion) but clearly looked like they’re the next to move into the pop field.
Bryan – who was on ABC at the same time judging “American Idol” -- sang “Most People are Good” and got plenty of sing-alongs.
Dan and Shay, relegated to the floor, were the best singers with “Tequila” and Laura Alaina and Kane Brown got the crowd gossiping when they sang a very sexy “What Ifs.” Alaina got a second shot on her own and clearly seemed like one the ACM has marked as a future Miranda.
The Brothers Osborne won two prizes but they weren’t televised. Instead, ones where the winners weren’t there were. Go figure.
While the ACMs don’t have the heft of the CMAs (it’s even held in Vegas), they do give country singers a chance to step out during the spring.
Jason Aldean, who opened the show with a tribute to those who died at one of his concerts in Las Vegas, got Entertainer of the Year, his third consecutive win, and offered the kind of reserve that came to symbolize the night.
It was a good show, not a great one.