TV viewers got to watch Keith Urban have the time of his life Wednesday night as he took home four CMT awards, but he and superstar wife, Nicole Kidman, also were just as fun to watch when the cameras weren’t looking.
Of course Kidman is our favorite habitual sing-alonger at these events, and she didn’t disappoint – avidly mouthing the words to several songs besides her husband’s. And Urban is among the most attentive listeners to other performances, this time literally getting a kick out of a guitar solo – he punched the air with a high kick after hearing one especially spectacular lick in pal Peter Frampton’s jam with the Brothers Osborne.
But the adorableness factor was off the charts as Urban grabbed award after award, each time returning to his seat to share kisses and lengthy whispers in intimate embraces with his wife. During his acceptance speeches, Kidman showered Urban with adoring gazes, and when he paid tribute to her role in his video-making, she modestly shook her head and buried her face in her hands. At show’s end, the two danced like no one was watching (we were!) for the entirety of Lady Antebellum and Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September.”
This year, the show was held in the ballroom of Music City Center since the Predators, Nashville’s hockey team, has taken over Bridgestone Arena for the Stanley Cup Finals. But as usual for the CMTs, the stars were packed into high-profile risers for optimum celeb watching. Here’s what else the CMT cameras didn’t catch:
OH, FOR A LIP READER! Commercial breaks gave the stars plenty of chat time, and lots of animated conversations revealed the small-town camaraderie in the country ranks. Dierks Bentley, who came solo, caught up with Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley, as well as T.J. Osborne and Thomas Rhett. Rhett checked in with Kelly and FGL partner Tyler Hubbard, and Brett Eldredge (also solo) chatted up Hubbard, as well. Luke Bryan and Rhett shared a laugh big enough to make us wish we were in on the joke.
ALL THUMBS: The phones came out for a few selfies, but mostly the celebs turned to their devices to text or check for messages. At one point, all four members of Little Big Town were staring en masse at their phones or tapping away. But Carrie Underwood was perhaps the most compulsive of the texters, reaching for the phone tucked in her rhinestone-studded clutch numerous times during the evening. But then, we know she had lots of reasons to use it—her husband, Predators captain Mike Fisher, is up in Pittsburgh for Game 5, no doubt leaving 2-year-old Isaiah with a sitter.
PREGNANT PAUSE: A very pregnant Lauren Akins left newly adopted daughter, Willa Gray, at home to accompany her husband, Thomas Rhett, to the show, and Rhett was properly attentive during the evening. Stepping onto the red carpet before the show, Rhett gave his wife a kiss, rubbed her belly, and asked, “Ready, babe?” as they headed in. She beamed nonstop through Rhett’s performance of “Craving You,” but as the show wore on, she seemed to exhibit signs of weariness, repeatedly stroking her baby bump, and the couple quickly ducked out at the end.
WHO’S GOT THE MUNCHIES? Remember when Ellen DeGeneres ordered a pizza during the Oscars? That was a stunt. This wasn’t: Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard obviously got hungry during the two-and-a-half-hour show and sent out for giant pretzels and dipping sauce. After about a half-dozen boxes were delivered to the top of the bleachers, the duo promptly shared them with their wives, as well as Bentley, Underwood, and Urban. Bentley and Urban took a few nibbles and then generously brought them down to the pit for fans to finish off.
AAAAWKWARD: It’s bound to happen at these things – former married couple Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert crossing paths – and sure enough, there was a moment when the two occupied the same room: Lambert was in the stands (accompanied by boyfriend Anderson East) when Shelton was an award presenter. Stone-faced, Lambert and East studiously avoided eye contact with the stage. In fact, both seemed relatively disengaged from all the revelry around them, choosing to sit out Bryan and Jason Derulo’s performance that had the rest of the crowd on their feet. Lambert, who had a Big Gulp-sized pink tumbler in tow, did reward Underwood with a standing ovation on her win for Female Video of the Year, which Lambert was also up for.
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HEY, IT’S A COUNTRY SHOW! Whose idea was it to blast pop music at all the commercial breaks? (Maybe the show’s producers didn’t want to play favorites with the artists gathered.) Brittany Kerr, Jason Aldean’s wife, was one who didn’t seem to mind. She could be seen singing along to Drake’s “Over,” as Aldean and Darius Rucker – on either side of her – chatted away.
SMOOTH MOVES: As Carrie Underwood stood on stage during one break, she charmed the crowd with Macarena-style dancing to Sia’s “Cheap Thrills.”
AND NOT-SO-SMOOTH MOVES: After his dazzling performance, Luke Bryan nearly tripped down the bleacher stairs on his way back to his seat before quickly catching himself.
FORGET THE DRESSING ROOM: Presenter Kathie Lee Gifford was among the first celebs to take her seat before the show, alongside TV co-host Hoda Kotb, but in her rush, Gifford seemed to forget a backstage stop to freshen her look. No matter. A makeup artist and hairdresser – armed with a curling iron – fussed over her for a few minutes in full view of the gathering crowd. Not in need of a similar touchup, Kotb was camera-ready for a selfie, which she grabbed when Dierks Bentley walked by.
JUST KIDDING: Little Big Town and Lady Antebellum have been vying for the same group awards for years, and if you’re wondering whether there’s a friendly rivalry, Lady A’s Charles Kelley confirmed it—the signaled two big thumbs down (with an accompanying big smile) as Karen Fairchild, Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman and Philip Sweet walked past Lady A to accept the award both groups were up for. When Little Big Town headed back to their seats, Kelley made sure they knew he was joking, leaning over and rewarding Fairchild with a smooch.