Nashville was buzzing throughout the second day of CMA Fest 2023. Tourists and Nashville residents alike, all enjoying a wild, who's who weekend of country music, packed out the streets of Downtown to lap up Friday's offering of the festival.
As the warm evening drew in, crowds made their way back to the Nissan Stadium for the second night of headliners. It's no mean feat to follow an opening performance from the legend that is Tanya Tucker. But if there's anyone to do it, Lainey Wilson is certainly the gal to take on the job.
The crowd took to their feet and started cheering as the lights dimmed and a dramatic backing track of voice over recordings of Lainey's CMA Award wins played. She soon appeared on stage in rhinestone decorated bell bottoms (her signature style, of course) and took to its centre to lap up the infectious energy.
'Hold My Halo' announces her confidence straight away. She's got the swagger of a performer who's been doing it forever, offering an arena-ready rock sound that actually worked a whole lot more effectively in a stadium environment than at her Thursday morning set on the Riverfront stage.
After picking up her acoustic guitar (which is almost so inaudible you question if it's even mic'd up), her deep southern Louisiana drawl carries through Bell Bottom Country favourite 'Smell Like Smoke', matched by her band's gritty, swampy instrumental backing. .
"This is my fifteenth year [at CMA Fest]", she says, reflecting once settled into her set. "I've been coming every year since I was 14 years old, and I was sitting way up there, dreaming about being right here. I got news for ya: don't let anybody tell you no, don't let anybody tell you that you can't do it. If they do, that should make you want it even more." She's clearly humbled by her trajectory over the last couple of years, and is taking stock of where she's at.
After a performance of 'Watermelon Moonshine', she says that she feels as though she's been watching her dreams come true before her eyes, and that's thanks to her fans backing her music so much. Particularly her first No.1 hit, 'Things a Man Oughta Know', which she proceeds to play.
Once they're through, she takes a moment to prep herself, as though something big is about to happen. And no wonder, as Tanya Tucker and Elle King strut out to play a cover of Tucker's 'Texas When I Die'. It's an ultimate country girl power moment that'll go down as an iconic CMA Fest performance.
By the end of her set, which closes with award-winning 'Heart Like a Truck', there's no doubt left in anyone's minds that Lainey Wilson is headed towards arena headline slots. Even Tanya Tucker took a moment to share her thoughts...
"You sound AWESOME! I was listening from the side. Ain't she GREAT?!", she screamed to the crowd, all screaming along in agreement.
She sure is, Tanya, she sure is.
Lainey Wilson - Setlist
From her set at the Nissan Stadium Main Stage at CMA Fest 2023 on Friday, June 9, 2023.
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