Throw on your best boots, iron your jeans and pull your hat down low. Sunday, April 18, the MGM Grand Garden once again plays host to the Academy of Country Music Awards show. Every top act in the field will converge, turning Las Vegas into Nashville West for three days of festivities. Lest we forget that there are actual awards in the midst of all the parties and concerts, here’s a rundown of the highlights, as well as a few predictions with help from our local experts:
This is the 45th year for the awards and the 12th time that 12-time winner (and nominee for Top Female Vocalist, once again) Reba McEntire will host.
“Reba does such a good job—she’s so humble, so down to earth. She’s amazing, perfect for the show,” says Cadillac Jack, afternoon drive DJ on The Coyote, 102.7 KCYE. “I don’t know if she writes her own material, but she’s frickin funny! She really gets the crowd going.”
Where to Watch
The award show itself is already sold out. But if you’re dying to see the show, tickets are available on second-market sites, such as Craigslist and eBay, the most expensive of which is a $15,000 four-ticket VIP package on eBay, which includes the works. Expect to pay at least $300 for a ticket online. For those who need to tighten their brass belt buckles, The Coyote will host an ACMA viewing party at Stoney’s Rockin Country, 9151 Las Vegas Blvd. South. There’s no cover if you say “Coyote” at the door. Then again, you could always watch the show from the comfort of your home at 8 p.m. on CBS.
Luke Bryan: Top New Solo Vocalist?
Marking our favorite cross-over, rocker Dave Matthews teamed up with country star Kenny Chesney to release “I’m Alive,” nominated for Vocal Event of the Year (an award for songs featuring a guest artist). He’s nominated alongside perennial favorites Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins, Brooks & Dunn working with Billy Gibbons (of ZZ Top fame), and Carrie Underwood and Randy Travis.
This idea of genre-blending excites local country crooner Tony Marques. He has a 13-year-old daughter who listens to country, often simply because a country song will follow a pop song on the radio. “Country music appeals to so many different people,” Marques says. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or what you’re into.” Likewise, the most accessible thing about contemporary country music is if you grew up on rock, you have something in country to like.
Underwood herself is nominated in five other categories, including the biggie of the night—Entertainer of the Year—an award she won last year. This year, though, her competition is pretty stiff. She’s in a field of eight nominees (up from the traditional five), which includes her Vocal Event competitor Chesney as well as Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Keith Urban, the Zac Brown Band and Taylor Swift, whom Cadillac thinks is going to take that top prize. “Kenny Chesney puts on a great show,” he says. “[But] I think Taylor is gonna take it.” If she does, she’ll put a crimp in Underwood’s hopes of becoming the only woman to win the award twice, as well as consecutively.
Marques, a 17-year Las Vegas resident, has been a voting member of the ACM since November 2005. He favors Urban, who is nominated in two big categories: Entertainer of the Year and Top Male Vocalist of the Year. “I’m a huge fan … for his writing and guitar playing and his vocals. He’s a highly talented individual and deserves to win.”
(Catch Marques in the Celebration Lounge at the Tropicana at 10 p.m. April 16-17. He and his band will also be featured monthly at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill and at Gilley’s in Treasure Island.)
Cadillac Jack, who is also the music director for The Coyote, has several other winners picked: “Top New Solo Vocalist? Luke Bryan is gonna take that. Album of the Year, I think it’s gonna be Lady Antebellum.” The biggest toss-up of the evening for him is Record of the Year. “The Zac Brown Band has really come on like gangbusters and so has Lady Antebellum,” but both he and Marques are rooting for Lady Antebellum.
Regardless who wins Sunday evening, Marques thinks the biggest winner of the weekend will be Las Vegas itself. “The ACM really puts on a great show. Thousands of people come here just to attend. It’s great for the economy and great for country music.”
A Fond Farewell
And if all that weren’t enough, Monday night at the MGM will see The Last Rodeo, a concert tribute to legends Brooks & Dunn who are calling it quits after an award-filled 20-year career. As a team, they are the best-selling duo in the history of country music, with 26 awards, including Entertainer of the Year three times. At the show, which has scheduled performances by a number of ACMA 2010 nominees, including Miranda Lambert, Underwood, Swift and Paisley. Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn and will receive one more honor: the Academy’s Milestone Award. The show is being recorded to air at 8 p.m. May 23 on CBS. Tickets are $100-150 and available through Ticketmaster. Proceeds benefit ACM Lifting Lives, the charity of the Academy of Country Music (ACMLiftingLives.org).