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August 1, 2014

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American Country Awards at Mandalay: A spectacle for Las Vegas — and Fox

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Luke Bryan at the 2012 American Country Awards at Mandalay Bay on Monday, Dec. 10, 2012.

2012 American Country Awards: Backstage

Jake Owen at the 2012 American Country Awards at Mandalay Bay on Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. Launch slideshow »
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Carrie Underwood at the 2012 American Country Awards at Mandalay Bay on Monday, Dec. 10, 2012.

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Miranda Lambert at the 2012 American Country Awards at Mandalay Bay on Monday, Dec. 10, 2012.

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Hosts Kristin Chenoweth and Trace Adkins at the 2012 American Country Awards at Mandalay Bay on Monday, Dec. 10, 2012.

Hello from Mandalay Bay Events Center. There is a high volume of country music awards shows across the great rural landscape, many of them taking place in Las Vegas. Tonight it is the American Country Awards broadcast, airing on tape delay at 8 p.m. on Fox.

Luke Bryan opens the show with "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye," during which he flips his ball cap backward. Hanging above the stage is a very big star, and the crowd, playing the role of a giant studio audience, roars its approval.

Among the presenters are Trevor Brazile, Jewel and Ty Murray and Lindsay Buckingham, who has a great name for rodeo, come to think of it.

Hosts Kristin Chenoweth is 4-feet-11 and Trace Adkins is 6-feet-6, so Adkins carries her out for the show's opening with one arm. She's wrapped in a baby blanket, which is given to Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott, who is pregnant. The band wins Single of the Year, bringing the number of trophies Lady A has won in awards telecasts here to approximately 113.

Updated at 5:22 p.m.: Brazile and Scotty McCreery deal New Artist of the Year to Lauren Alaina, who finished as the runner-up to McCreery on Season 10 of "American Idol" and is beautifully attired in a banana yellow dress. Lauren is, not Brazile, who has a rodeo to get to, no?

5:30 p.m.: Noticing that Jason Aldean is being referred to as "Aldean" a lot these days, sort of like Daughtry. Or Pele. Or Teller. Members of his camp attended the Taylor Hicks show at Bally's on Saturday, for which Hicks recruited great Las Vegas violinist Jennifer Lynn. This is what happens when you recognize nearly every musician in the city. Lynn is with Frankie Moreno's band and is a fine person in her own right.

5:40 p.m.: Ron White and his mom are up now. "I remember when country music was George Jones and Dolly Parton," he says, and she says, "Now it's the cast of 'Glee' in cowboy hats!" She announces the Breakthrough Artist of the Year as "The Rolling Stones!" before revealing the real winner, Jake Owen.

5:45 p.m.: More from White, one of the Mirage comics in the "Aces of Comedy" series: "If you'd-a told me five years ago that I would have as many Tour de France championships as Lance Armstrong, I wouldn't-a believed ya!"

5:50 p.m.: Aldean is Touring Artist of the Year. The winners are given trophies shaped as guitars that are about the size of guitar-shaped drink containers bartenders used to give out at Rockhouse at Imperial Palace.

5:55 p.m.: Adkins and members of Lynyrd Skynyrd perform "What's Your Name," the greatest song ever to name-check Boise, Idaho. Adkins dwarfs Johnny Van Zandt, who has always reminded me of a country-fied Vince Neil. This has to be one of the red-neckiest moments in Vegas entertainment history.

5:58 p.m.: Chenoweth is now performing a beyond-credible impression of Honey Boo Boo. "My underpants are goin' up my butt," she says. Adkins, to his credit, doesn't know what to say or do here.

6:06 p.m.: Up now is Owen. You know, he looks a lot like Tom Cruise in "Born on the Fourth of July" while singing "The One That Got Away." Coincidentally, a line from that song: "She set my world on fire, on the fourth of July!" Comic Rodney Carrington (better fire up the laugh track) and members of the S.F. Giants Barry Zito and Brandon Belt award Carrie Underwood as Female Artist of the Year. She says "blessed" over and over, and she is that.

6:15 p.m.: Dustin Lynch and Carmen Electra -- one of whom was rumored to be replacing Holly Madison in "Peepshow" at Planet Hollywood -- are up now. Given about 40 words to read and convey, Electra muffs her lines and refers to the show as the "ACMs." She sure seems happy tonight. Aldean is introduced, clumsily but effectively. He sort of stands out in any awards show in which he performs, and he's ripping through "The Only Way I Know," where he reminds, "Don't back up, don't back down." Great advice in life, and also for anyone operating a fork lift (hashtag-SheckyKats).

6:22 p.m.: Adkins introduces Penn & Teller as "The Bad Boys of Magic" as they arrive with Alaina to award Single of the Year by a Female Artist. I predict Underwood wins because she is blessed. Adkins gives his hat to P&T, who toss five playing cards with the faces of each nominee and run a comb over the top of the hat. The card with Miranda Lambert's face surfaces, and she wins for "Over You." Pretty routine appearance by P&T.

6:32 p.m. In the media room, Underwood is asked about starring as Maria Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music" live musical broadcast on NBC during the holiday season of 2013. "It sounded really challenging and really cool," she said. "This is a live musical on TV. We're not redoing the movie, we're not touching that. But it is live, and the idea of everyone singing live is really intriguing to me. We need more live music on TV, and that's something I really strongly support." That might be the coolest thing Carrie Underwood has said, ever.

6:35 p.m.: Another winner: Music Video by a Group, Little Big Town for "Pontoon." Meeting the media is Alaina, who says of new "American Idol" judge Keith Urban, "I think he'll be great for the show; he's a real sweetheart." The two work for the same record label, so they are apt to be linked at such events.

6:40 p.m.: Owen says White's mother throwing out "The Rolling Stones" threw him off, but even though he is really active on Twitter, "I never asked for a vote, ever," in social media. Good for him. Of course, if he'd not won, he'd be sort of peeved, I imagine. (For a full list of all of tonight's winners, go to the ACA website.)

6:55 p.m.: Lambert mentions the Pink Pistol, her store in Tishomingo, Okla., which opened on Black Friday, is her hobby away from writing and singing. The store specializes in antiques, crafts and various gifts -- a little bit of everything. She also says that her tradition with her husband, Blake Shelton, is to wrap presents together a couple of nights before Christmas. "We don't have kids yet, so our husband-and-wife time is to sit down and wrap presents together. He actually does help wrap, but neither of us is very good."

7 p.m.: Line from Adkins to Chenoweth: "You look like a holiday hooker." You have to see the costumes they are wearing at the end to get that not-inaccurate assessment. Lady Antebellum ends with "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." And that sounds like a dang good idea after a quite pleasant experience.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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