Performances overshadow trophies early on in 49th ACM Awards – Los Angeles Times

The first hour of the 49th Academy of Country Music Awards ceremony Sunday in Las Vegas was packed with performance segments from George Strait, Brad Paisley, a Blake Shelton-Shakira duet and Eric Church — nine musical numbers in all — before a single prize was handed out.

It was tacit demonstration of the extent to which eye- and ear-popping production numbers have come to overshadow the announcements of awards themselves. But those live songs have become the heart of pop music awards telecasts, none more apparent than the ACM Awards, which bills itself as “Country Music’s Party of the Year.”

PHOTOS: Academy of Country Music Awards | Arrivals

“If you don’t like live music,” co-host Shelton quipped at the top of the show, “you need to go down the block and see Britney Spears.”

Entertainer of the year nominee Taylor Swift showed up an hour into the proceedings to reveal that Florida Georgia Line had collected the first trophy as vocal duo of the year, the second year in a row the award has gone to the twosome of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard.

The ACM show also demonstrated that blurred lines aren’t the exclusive domain of pop music and Robin Thicke. Sunday’s show brought out celebrity chef Guy Fieri to introduce a film recap of the week’s country music activities in Las Vegas, before which he plugged a new restaurant he’s opening soon in Sin City. Colombian rock-pop star Shakira was teamed with Shelton for a genre-crossing performance segment, and she also popped up in a toothpaste commercial that aired during the show. Singer- songwriter Randy Houser turned up not to sing, but to not-so-subtly plug one of the show’s truck sponsors.

In addition to the Shelton-Shakira pairing, the ACM teamed Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks with trio Lady Antebellum in another collaboration designed to tickle country viewers with contributions from musicians outside the genre.

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In all, 11 performers are up for three or more awards, with Miranda Lambert and Tim McGraw leading the pack with seven each, Keith Urban close behind with six, and Swift, Shelton, Kacey Musgraves and Lee Brice right in line with five each.

The ceremony kicked off at 5 p.m. Pacific time, with the CBS telecast going out live to most of the country, but on tape delay at 8 p.m. for West Coast viewers.

Singer and songwriter Paisley was stationed at an outdoor swimming pool filled with bathing suited-fans splashing as he and his band unveiled his new single, “River Bank.”

The contest for the ACM’s top honor of entertainer of the year is among Shelton and Luke Bryan, who co-host the event once again, along with Lambert, Swift and George Strait.

Strait figures to be a strong sentimental favorite this year in the entertainer category because he recently announced his retirement from touring following his current Cowboy Rides Away farewell concert series.

The three-hour telecast is scheduled to include performances by Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley with Sheryl Crow, Brice, Bryan, Eric Church, Brett Eldredge, Hunter Hayes, Lambert, Toby Keith, McGraw, Justin Moore, Kip Moore, Paisley, Darius Rucker, Shakira, Shelton, Strait, Urban, the Band Perry, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum with Fleetwood Mac singer and songwriter Stevie Nicks, and Rascal Flatts.

Those performances alternate between the MGM and the nearby Mandalay Bay, with the ACM taking over several sites on the Vegas Strip for its annual awards extravaganza.

Award presenters include Garth Brooks, Swift, Strait, Carrie Underwood, Trisha Yearwood, Thea Andrews, Guy Fieri, LL Cool J, Jewel, Olivia Munn, Nancy O’Dell, Chris O’Donnell, Rucker, Clay Walker, David Nail and Florida Georgia Line.

Awards organizers also promise a special announcement during tonight’s broadcast regarding the particulars of the 50th ceremony next year.

Awards are determined by voting among members of the Los Angeles-based Academy of Country Music, except for the entertainer and new artist categories, which also factor in fan votes. The ACM is the West Coast counterpart to the Nashville-based Country Music Assn., which annually bestows its awards in the fall.

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Follow Randy Lewis on Twitter: @RandyLewis2 

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