By Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
Country music is making a major return to Las Vegas with the 2018 ACM Awards, six months after a lone gunman killed 58 people at a country music festival in Sin City in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Sunday night’s show at the MGM Grand Garden Arena will mark an emotional night, though the awards show is known as the genre’s biggest party of the year. It will air at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS.
Jason Aldean, who was onstage when the shooting started at the Route 91 Harvest Festival last October, will perform Sunday. Other performers include Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Florida Georgia Line, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Thomas Rhett, Maren Morris and Reba McEntire, who is hosting the show.
Carrie Underwood, who will perform her new song “Cry Pretty,” will give her first television appearance after injuring her face and wrist last year due to a fall at her home.
Pop stars will also invade the country music show: Kelly Clarkson, Julia Michaels and Bebe Rexha will also hit the stage.
Chris Stapleton, who released two top-selling albums last year, is the top nominee with eight. This year marks his first nomination for entertainer of the year, where he will battle Garth Brooks, Urban, Bryan and Aldean, who has won the honour the last two years.
Rhett earned six nominations, Urban and songwriter-producer Shane McAnally are up for five awards, and Lambert and Morris will each compete for four honours.
Lambert is currently tied with Brooks and Dunn as artists with the most awards in ACM history with 29 wins each. She is the current record holder for most consecutive wins for female vocalist of the year; this year her competition in the category includes Underwood, McEntire, Morris and Kelsea Ballerini.
Little Big Town, Midland and Sam Hunt, whose “Body Like a Back Road” is the longest-running No. 1 song of all-time on Billboard’s Hot country songs chart, all have three nominations each. “Body Like a Back Road” is nominated for song of the year and single record of the year.
Other performers include Dierks Bentley, Ballerini, Lauren Alaina, Kane Brown, Dan + Shay, Chris Janson, Midland, Jon Pardi, Darius Rucker, Brett Young and Chris Young. Ashton Kutcher, Cam, Drew Brees and Eve will present awards.