As the glittering silver confetti fell in Hall D of the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center, the final notes of Big & Rich’s 11-year-old single Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy ringing out, the CMT Ultimate Kickoff Party had fulfilled its reason for being: a shiny distraction ahead of Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship game in Arlington.
It certainly wasn’t a satisfying concert.
Jagged momentum, thanks to the frequent commercial breaks necessitated by the event’s live broadcast on CMT and iHeartRadio stations across the country, and a line-up seemingly conceived at random gave the night an air of hastily organized, albeit extravagantly financed, chaos.
Comedian Rob Riggle, along with Jessie James Decker, the co-host of Redneck Island, served as de facto emcees for the evening. Riggle strenously committed to one unfunny bit after another — in fairness, perhaps audiences were roaring with laughter in living rooms around the country, but it was nothing but polite chuckles in the room.
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Amid the “comedy” and the counting down of the year’s top 10 college football plays, there was music.
Seeing as Big & Rich were the night’s final act, perhaps they were the headliners?
The puzzling performing order made it tough to tell.
Toby Keith opened the show, and returned in a pre-taped bit midway through (no human should have to listen to Drunk Americans three times in a 90-minute span, but that’s what happened to those attending Friday).
The rest of the line-up was a blur of perma-tanned and blindingly veneered performers, each with songs so similar as to be interchangeable. Is that Thomas Rhett? No, maybe it’s Jake Owen. Or is it Brett Eldredge?
Wait, why is Lady Antebellum performing Aloe Blacc’s Wake Me Up, with Blacc acting as if he wandered in from some other party?
Mercifully, the songs were over in a few minutes’ time, leaving a thin crowd — estimates weren’t immediately available, but going off of an eyeball estimate, I’d be shocked if there were more than 1,500 people present — to mill around, snap selfies and order overpriced food from the concession stands tucked along the edge of the sprawling room.
These happenings, now a familiar part of the run-up to major sporting events in the DFW area, always aim for memorable, promising unforgettable nights with one-of-a-kind experiences.
What’s equally familiar by now is how very rarely such events ever live up to such promises.
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713