By Staci Wuokko
CBS Radio’s first ever Stars and Strings concert, sponsored by the United Association Of Union Plumbers, Fitters, Welders & Service Technicians, celebrated Veteran’s Day and paid tribute to our country’s veterans and their families with an evening full of unforgettable stripped down performances by some of country’s biggest names. With eleven top artists and two surprised unannounced guests, it was a night country fans will remember for a lifetime.
The all-star lineup featured emotional tributes and one-off acoustic collaborations and duets, all while supporting the Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides providing educational support to spouses and children of America’s fallen and wounded soldiers.
Justin Moore’s selections included crowd favorite “Point at You,” and his hit “Til My Last Day.” He dedicated “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” to all the men and women in uniforms who didn’t make it home.
Lee Brice admitted that he couldn’t remember the last time he played “Drinking Class” without his band. “We feel so blessed to be a part of this,” Lee explained. “I meet a lot of folks who have a lot of circumstances and it makes me so thankful for my wife and baby. Nothing better than singing a song for your wife even if she’s not in the crowd,” he said before performing his “I Don’t Dance.” To honor those who have lost their lives defending the country, Brice he sang with “I Drive Your Truck.”
Jerrod Niemann played an upbeat new song dubbed “Blue Bandana” and continued to set that mood by following up with “Drink To That All Night.” He ended his performance with the song he says changed his life forever, “Lover Lover,” and the entire audience sang along.
After that impressive trio, Jake Owen hit the deck solo with a guitar in his hand and a drummer behind him. He projected one of his first hits “One That Got Away,” and told the auditorium about his grandfather, a veteran who he called the rock of his family. Owen then sang “Journey of Your Life,” without his drummer for a true “solo acoustic” moment. He wrapped things up with “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” but not before sneaking in the “Fresh Prince of Bell-Air’s” theme song.
Next on the lineup was Hunter Hayes, who had a mandolin player and a keyboardist by his side while he strummed on the guitar. “It’s truly a privilege to play at a show like this on a day like this,” he announced. Hayes stuck to his hit tunes of “21,” “Wanted” and “I Want Crazy.”
Chris Young was all smiles and clearly happy to be a part of the event. He started with “Lonely Eyes” before heading into “Gettin’ You Home” and his current hit single “I’m Comin’ Over.”
Switching from solo acts to a group, The Band Perry brought a different energy to the stage, and got the entire audience clapping along with “Live Forever.” The ambiance changed when they ended with their classic “If I Die Young,” where the crowd didn’t miss a beat when it came to singing along.
Kip Moore was a favorite among many fans for the night. With another guitarist and a percussionist on stage, Moore went full force into an old hit of his with “Beer Money.” He didn’t have an set list for his next few songs, deciding on the spot what he wanted to play. One of those was a song he said he had just written, which fans can assume is named “Battle Cry.” He went on with “That Was Us,” then went out with a bang by performing “Guitar Man.”
Little Big Town started with a big nod to country music’s roots, via a beautiful acapella rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” They then performed their award-winning song “Girl Crush,” and then picked things back with “Boondocks,” noting they were proud of where they came from – namely, America.
Gary Allan isn’t as high profile of an artist as many of the others on the bill, but true country fans love him, and true country fans were indeed in the building; and they were glad to hear his announcement that he’s working on his new record. The veteran kicked things off with his classic “Her Man,” before turning it over to a brand new tune of “Mess Me Up” followed by “Every Storm.”
Dierks Bentley started off with his inspirational song “Riser,” saying it reminded him of his father, who fought in World War II. He brought things up a notch and had every audience member jumping around with “Drunk on a Plane,” before his more emotional “I Hold On.” And it seems as though Bentley wasn’t the only one who was holding on. After the crowd cheered for more, Bentley announced that Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum and Eric Paslay would be joining him. Together, the three sang Kelley’s new single “Driver.” Finally, Bentley performed, appropriately, “Home.” And as the lights went back on and the audience prepared to return to their homes, the entire crowd joined in a huge chant of “U!S!A! U!S!A!” A reminder that we are all glad to have all the vets in the building back home, here in America.