The first image viewers saw of the 2017 CMA Awards was Eric Church delivering a delicate acoustic rendition of “Amazing Grace” on a nearly darkened stage. In the wake of the deadly shooting at a Las Vegas country music festival in October—and mere days after the massacre at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas—it was an appropriately solemn way to recognize the lives lost.
From there, the Country’s Biggest Night kicked off in grand fashion, aiming to heal the broken hearts of the nation by uniting in joyous song. Darius Rucker led a star-studded singalong of his 1994 Hootie & the Blowfish classic “Hold My Hand,” getting help from the likes of Keith Urban and Lady Antebellum.
The members of Lady A hinted at the performance while on the red carpet earlier in the night as their arrived at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, jokingly saying they were “the least famous people” performing. While that’s debatable, the star power was certainly shining bright.