(Reuters) - Country music royalty turned out in force on Sunday for a glittering night of live performances and honors at the 54th annual Academy of Country Music awards.
Host Reba McEntire, marking a record 16th time in the job, wasted no time in addressing one of the evening’s touchy subjects - the lack of women nominees in some top categories.
Noting recent snow in Las Vegas, where the awards were held in a live, performance-heavy broadcast, McEntire quipped “it was so cold it froze us women out of entertainer of the year.”
Grammy award album of the year winner Kacey Musgraves was glaringly absent from the all-male nominees top category.
The honor went to Keith Urban, whose wife actress Nicole Kidman appeared genuinely shocked at his win.
But Musgraves took home both the album of the year and female artist of the year awards.
Accepting the latter, Musgraves said “I’m so thankful for the chance to share my political perspective,” dedicating the award to women who felt pressure to silence themselves.
And women ruled the MGM Grand Garden Arena stage as Chrissy Metz, of hit NBC show “This Is Us,” made her live TV performance debut, alongside country stars Lauren Alaina, Mickey Guyton and Maddie & Tae for a stirring rendition of “I’m Standing With You.”
Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line opened the show with a rousing performance of “Can’t Hide Red,” but some on social media took offense to Tyler Hubbard’s American flag suit, branding it a “disgrace” besmirching a sacrosanct national symbol.
Dan + Shay scored three straight early wins, for song of the year and single of the year for “Tequila,” also winning duo of the year.
Male artist of the year went to Thomas Rhett.
The star-laden three-hour show marked an upbeat return to celebrating country music after last year’s awards assumed a somber note following the October 2017 mass shooting, also in Las Vegas, that killed 58 people at a country music festival.
Aldean, who was performing when shooting broke out, received the ACM artist of the decade award.
Other A-list country stars performing included Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton, Urban, Brooks & Dunn, Miranda Lambert, McEntire and George Strait.
Editing by Michael Perry