LAS VEGAS (AP) – Florida Georgia Line may have lost entertainer of the year to Jason Aldean, but the country duo owned the Academy of Country Music Awards, thanks to some help from the Backstreet Boys.
The boy band brought the audience to its feet at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday night, singing their anthemic classic “Everybody (Backstreets Back),” and getting fans such as Carrie Underwood, Nicole Kidman, Tim McGraw and others out of their seats to sing and dance along.
The audience grew even louder as the Florida Georgia Line members danced some of the memorable choreography alongside the five Backstreet Boys. FGL, which performed three times during the three-hour show, also sang its duet with the Backstreet Boys — “God, Your Mama and Me” — before bringing up the high energy.
They also won two awards: single record of the year for “H.O.L.Y.” and music event of the year for “May We All” with McGraw.
The duo helped kick off the ACM Awards, which started with separate performances full of energy, including a tribute to Chuck Berry featuring Joe Walsh, Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley. The trio performed “Johnny B. Goode” as audience members got out of their seats.
“For the man that influenced every form of music, including country,” said Bryan of Berry, who died last month.
Before that, all of the nominees for entertainer of the year sang their recent hits. A good number of the performers sang more than once during the show on CBS, including Bryan, Underwood, Keith Urban, Bentley, Maren Morris and Aldean, who won entertainer of the year for a second straight year.
“Man, one of the Eagles just gave me an award,” he said, looking to Walsh. “I am so thankful. You guys don’t know how much I love getting up and doing what I do every day.”
Urban, who had success with his genre-bending, Grammy-nominated album “Ripcord,” was the top nominee with seven, though he walked away empty-handed.
But he shined onstage when he sang the soulful “Blue Ain’t Your Color” with a throwback, black-and-white vibe, while the back of the stage was smoky and bright blue. As he switched to the upbeat, disco-flavored “The Fighter” — where he was joined by Underwood — the camera focused on his actress-wife, who sang and danced along.
Miranda Lambert also had a top-notch performance: She earned a standing ovation after she sang the slow, acoustic-sounding “Tin Man” as the crowd watched along seriously while she hit all the right notes and strummed her guitar.
She won album of the year for her double disc, “The Weight of These Wings,” and female vocalist of the year, beating Underwood, whom she hugged after hearing her name called.
“Carrie can sing me under the table. We’ve agreed on that,” she said onstage. “And I’m glad to see females kicking (butt) these days. I’m so proud to be a part of that. So cheers to all of us girls out there.”
The night featured comedy, including a play off the Academy Awards mishap during the best picture winner announcement in February.
“This is odd. David?” asked “Entertainment Tonight” host Nancy O’Dell while holding the card with the name of the song of the year winner.
“Emma Stone, ‘La La Land,'” David Copperfield announced, as the audience laughed.
The real winner was Thomas Rhett for “Die a Happy Man.”
Rhett also won male vocalist of the year, beating out Urban, Aldean, Bentley and Chris Stapleton. In his seat, he shook his head after his name was announced.
“I don’t have a whole lot of words except for: Everyone in this category are my idols,” said Rhett, who was teary-eyed and paused throughout his speech. “This is the most amazing award that I’ve ever received in my whole existence.”
Sam Hunt performed his No. 1 hit, “Body Like a Back Road,” and he went into the audience to sit next to his fiancé to sing the song. Other performers included Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, Kelsea Ballerini as well as Faith Hill and McGraw, who sang a new duet.
The music video for “Forever Country,” the medley celebrating the Country Music Association Awards’ 50th anniversary featuring Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and others, won video of the year. Brothers Osborne were double winners, while Morris, Jon Pardi and songwriter Lori McKenna also picked up trophies.
Little Big Town won vocal group of the year, beating out Lady Antebellum, which had just performed on the show.
“I just wanna be in Lady Antebellum’s band,” Kimberly Schlapman yelled.
“Me too,” screamed Karen Fairchild.