ACMs in Las Vegas feature stars from many galaxies

The Academy of Country Music Awards show often expands beyond its rustic roots. Over the years, the ceremony has featured Kiss as presenters and paired odd-fitting but fascinating performers such as Pitbull with Tim McGraw, and at Sunday night’s event at T-Mobile Arena, Florida Georgia Line with Backstreet Boys.

It all made sense, in the end.


The requisite video montage of Strip attractions helped open the show. Co-hostsDierks Bentley and Luke Bryanwere shown fishing at The Fountains of Bellagio, with Bentley saying, “We have way better lakes than this at home!”

Also from the Strip trip: Bryan and Bentley hit David Copperfield’s show at MGM, with Bryan getting sawn in half. They tumbled backstage with Cirque du Soleil artists, or as Bryan — becoming country’s king of the malaprop — calling the troupe “Dierks du Soleil.” When Bryan awkwardly boasted they had “ partied at Pakistaaaan!” Bentley corrected him that the club was Hakkasan at MGM Grand. There, the two co-hosts were shown passed out while wearing Bruno Mars-style silk shirts and club gear.

The duo also poked fun at “Thunder From Down Under” of Excalibur. This gave the hosts a chance to invite Keith Urban to join the troupe, as Urban fits both the Australian requirement and probably many of the show’s costumes. “Damn you, Keith Urban!” Bryan shouted at Urban from the stage. “First Nicole Kidman, now this!”


In announcing the Song of the Year winner, Copperfield said, “And the winner is: Emma Stone, La La Land!’” With “Entertainment Tonight” co-host Nancy O’Dell at his side, Copperfield then set the card aflame before announcing the actual winner, Thomas Rhett for “Die a Happy Man.”


Rising star Aaron Watson, whose “Vaquero” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Country Album charts, had a new answer to familiar red carpet queries: “Who are you wearing?” and “What’s your favorite Vegas story?”

“My favorite Vegas story is when I swapped cowboy hats with legendary bull rider Tuff Hedeman,” said Watson, who was wearing a flat-black Hedeman Resistol for the show. “That was at the (National Finals Rodeo), about four years ago … And I gave him a really nice, custom-made, Silver Belly hat, so he got the better end of the deal.”


“Big Kenny” Alphin and John Rich, known universally as Big & Rich, seemed pleased when I told them “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” has become a mandatory number for any adult production in Las Vegas.

“You hear that? Our song is in all the nekkid shows in Vegas!” said Rich, owner of Redneck Riviera st Grand Bazaar Shops, to Alphin.

“I like it!” Big Kenny said. “You spend half your life buck nekkid anyway, so why not?”

Um, we do?

Rich added, “That song is our ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ It has become legendary!” And from Big Kenny. “It’s everywhere, in shopping malls, in the middle of movies. You walk into any bar across America, and they’re playing it. It’s as cool as can be.”


A couple of dandy cameos: The UNLV marching band backed Lady Antebellum on its new mash-up of “You Look Good” and Bill Withers’ “Use Me.” And members of “Absinthe” appeared on Brett Eldredge’s walk into the arena on his latest single, “Somethin’ I’m Good At.”


Derek Carr made the first award show appearance by a likely Las Vegas Raider. The quarterback walked the red carpet and later appeared onstage to give a “shout-out to all of our old friends in Oakland, and our new friends in Las Vegas!”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.