That must have been one heck of a Super Bowl party for Luke Bryan.
On Monday, when the singer announced the newest members of the Country Radio Hall of Fame during the opening of this year’s Country Radio Seminar, he blamed too much partying on a badly bobbled introduction.
“I had a Super Bowl party at my house last night,” Bryan, 39, said sheepishly. “The remnants of that may be present.”
Then on Tuesday, at the annual Team UMG concert event during CRS, the usually high-octane performer chose to park himself behind a piano. “I’m still hung over,” he confessed to laughter from the crowd.
A subdued Bryan (who turned in a tender reading of “To the Moon and Back” off his latest album) was just one of several surprises at the revue, which offered country radio broadcasters a firsthand look at what’s new among Universal Music Group’s top artists.
Stripped-down acoustic performances were mostly the order of the day at the event, held at Ryman Auditorium; 15 of the 16 acts each had just a single song to impress the people who decide airplay.
Only Keith Urban, who took the closing spot, had the honor of two songs, and after predictably turning in new single “Break on Me,” he brought the crowd to their feet with a newly funkified version of “John Deere, John Cougar, John 3:16” on electric bass.
Eric Church played brand-new single “Record Year,” his lost-love song that’s really a tribute to music, old school. “I’m a guy who grew up listening to vinyl,” he said, announcing what he called one of his “favorite songs” on his new album. “I still think the best way to listen to music is just put on the album, stick the needle on it and just kick back with a whiskey. That’s my escapism.”
The meteoric-rising Chris Stapleton defied expectations (again) and chose to play a song that doesn’t appear on his award-winning debut album, Traveller. “It’s about time for me to start thinking about making another [album],” Stapleton said – and perhaps it will include the soulful song “Either Way” that earned a standing ovation from broadcasters.
The concert offered ample opportunities for displays of emotion, as well as musical chops. Darius Rucker was visibly overcome singing “So I Sang,” which recalls his mother’s funeral, and he wiped away tears as he departed the stage.
David Nail, new dad to boy and girl twins, offered a poignant “Fighter,” the title track to his upcoming album; it’s based on the difficult journey he and his wife took to become pregnant. And Vince Gill called a last-minute audible, forgoing the first single off his new album to sing instead “Sad One Coming On,” a tribute to friend and mentor, the late George Jones.
Don’t miss a beat of country music news, photos and videos! Click here to get all this and more in the PEOPLE Country Newsletter.
Away from the UMG revue stage for the past couple of years, 2011 American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina made a comeback of sorts, and she explained what’s been keeping her off the radar – her parents’ divorce, her father’s stint in rehab, her mother’s remarriage to her father’s best friend, and, oh yes, vocal surgery. If you think that’s enough to inspire a country song, so did Alaina. It’s called “Doing Fine,” which she co-wrote and sang to the Ryman crowd.
Charles Kelley, introduced as “Man Antebellum,” rallied another trio with Dierks Bentley and Eric Paslay. The three performed “The Driver,” the Grammy-nominated song they recorded together for Kelley’s solo project.
And Paslay, who stood like a mighty oak behind his guitar in previous years at this event, busted moves this time around – performing new single “High Class” – as if he’s been taking night classes at the Luke Bryan College of Sexy Dancing.
Who knew you could moonwalk in cowboy boots? Paslay, obviously.