The Academy of Country Music Awards kicked off with six separate performances full of energy, including a tribute to featuring Joe Walsh, Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley.
The trio performed “Johnny B. Goode” at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas as the audience got out of their seats Sunday to sing and dance along.
“For the man that influenced every form of music, including country,” said Bryan of Berry, who died last month.
Before that, the nominees for entertainer of the year — Bryan, , Jason Aldean, Keith Urban and Florida Georgia Line — started the show with performances of their recent hits.
Aldean won entertainer of the year last year.
Sam Hunt performed his No. 1 hit, “Body Like a Back Road,” and he went into the audience to sit next to his fianc? to sing the song. The show is expected to feature a number of other A-list performances during the three-hour show on CBS, including the with Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Chris Stapleton, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
Bryan and Bentley are co-hosting the show for a second year, and joked about doing Vegas activities leading up to the awards show, even showing photos of them dressed as stripper-cowboys.
Bryan even joked days ahead that the ACM Awards would unite Democrats and Republicans.
“Democrats and Republicans are going to get along on Sunday night. They’re all going to watch the ACMs together and stuff’s going to start happening in this country. It’s going to change,” Bryan said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Cats and dogs are going to make out.”
“Coming to an election near you. Is politics your next career?” Bentley said.
“Yes,” Bryan replied.
Earlier winners announced before Sunday’s show included two wins for Florida Georgia Line: single record of the year with “H.O.L.Y.” and vocal event of the year for “May We All” with McGraw.
Urban, who had success with his genre-bending, Grammy-nominated album “Ripcord,” is the top nominee with seven. He will compete for album of the year, song of the year with “Blue Ain’t Your Color” and male vocalist of the year.
In the latter category, he’s up against Aldean, Bentley, Stapleton and Thomas Rhett.
Nominees for female vocalist of the year are Kacey Musgraves, Kelsea Ballerini, Lambert, Underwood and Maren Morris, who recently won a Grammy for her hit song, “My Church.”
Other performers during the show are Reba McEntire, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Morris, Rhett, Ballerini, Brothers Osborne, Cole Swindell and Jon Pardi. Presenters include Darius Rucker, Miss America Savvy Shields, Jake Owen, Kane Brown, Lauren Alaina and Kellie Pickler.
Lori McKenna, who won the best country song Grammy for two consecutive years for writing McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” and co-writing Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” was named songwriter of the year.
Morris won new female vocalist of the year, Pardi was named new male vocalist, and Brothers Osborne picked up the new vocal duo or group honor.