Sunday, April 6, 2014 | 3:58 p.m.
“All set and ready to go,” declared ACM Awards producer Richard “RAC” Clark after three final rehearsal run-throughs of the dangerous, pyrotechnic-filled, BMX stunt, Nitro Circus cyclists somersaulting over the heads of co-host Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line.
I watched the trio’s stunning rehearsal Saturday at Mandalay Bay Events Center for the satellite remote cut-in from the fourth-annual ACM Fan Jam. Luke will make the mad round-trip dash between the 2014 Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena and Mandalay Bay under Las Vegas Metro Police escort in a high-speed, 10-minute window.
“This year’s show will be the biggest and best ever,” RAC told me. “The opening right off the bat with The Band Perry will be explosive. But this segment of Nitro Circus stunt riders flying off ramps and over the heads of the performers with fireworks going off was the only one that really had me concerned.
“It’s the most ambitious segment we’ve ever attempted. There are so many moving parts to it. There are so many things that could go wrong. We had to make certain nothing does.
“I think the live audience in Mandalay Bay will be stunned when they see it. And that reality will extend out to viewers at home who will be right in the middle of it with all the cameras we’re using.”
Today’s glittering mega-star red carpet will start at 3 p.m., with the three-hour show live on CBS at 5 p.m. (but airing tape delayed at 8 p.m. PT for West Coast viewers). Last-minute presenters added Saturday: Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, George Strait and David Nail. They join the other presenters we’ve previously reported here: Thea Andrews, Garth Brooks, Guy Fieri, Florida Georgia Line, LL Cool J, Jewel, Olivia Munn, Nancy O’Dell, Chris O’Donnell, Darius Rucker, Clay Walker and Trisha Yearwood.
Performers during the jam-packed broadcast include Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley with Sheryl Crow, Lee Brice, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Brett Eldredge, Hunter Hayes, Miranda Lambert, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Justin Moore, Kip Moore, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Shakira, Blake Shelton, George Strait, Keith Urban, The Band Perry, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum with legendary musician Stevie Nicks and Rascal Flatts.
ACM PARTY FOR A CAUSE NIGHT 2
Keith headlined the second day of ACM Party for a Cause in the shadows of the High Roller observation wheel at the Linq on Saturday night. That party rolled until 2 a.m. today with Jerrold Neiman and his country music friends.
ACM Lifting Lives presented the second day of the festival to benefit military philanthropies including Folds of Honor Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project, Navy SEAL Foundation, Team Rubicon and Nellis AFB Force Support Squadron. The festival featured performances by Lee Brice, Brett Eldredge, Tyler Farr, Kip Moore, Joe Nichols, Chris Young, Love and Theft and Parmalee.
2014 ACM Party for a Cause Night 1
Plus Joel Crouse, Jon Pardi, Leah Turner, Austin Webb, Dan + Shay and Max Impact, the premier rock band of the U.S. Air Force, performed on the Party Stage. Singer/songwriter Jewel and Food Network personality Guy Fieri, who opens his first Las Vegas restaurant this month at the Quad, also were in attendance. Jewel accepted a $10,000 donation from Pure Via on behalf of Project Clean Water and kicked off her partnership with Pure Via.
Following Keith’s performance, the party continued with ACM After Hours with Jerrod Niemann & Friends on the Party Stage, along with Tyler Farr, American Young, Natalie Stovall and The Drive, The Swon Brothers and surprise guest Kellie Pickler.
Additionally, ACM and Cabela’s Great Outdoor Archery Event kicked off Saturday’s ACM Party for a Cause. Luke Bryan and Justin Moore hosted the event at the Linq, bringing together country artists and fans in an archery exhibition featuring 3D and traditional targets. Lee Brice, Dallas Davidson, Tyler Farr, Brantley Gilbert, Chris Janson, Dustin Lynch, Thomas Rhett, Ashton Shepherd, Chase Rice, Josh Thompson, Austin Webb, Chuck Wicks and Florida Georgia Line all arrived on the camouflage carpet and tested their skills.
Team Justin took home top honors, beating Team Luke by a score of 280-226. Other highlights included Chuck Wicks blaming team captain Luke Bryan for his faulty bow and Justin Moore joking that his worst round of shots against Bryan was because “he’s obviously terrified of heights.”
The stars were busy from dawn to dusk with rehearsals Saturday, but several had time off to play in the third consecutive year of the ACM Lifting Lives Celebrity Golf Classic. Hosted by Darius Rucker, the players in the star-studded scramble included Frankie Ballard, David Nail, Charles Kelley, Scotty McCreery, Jake Owen and Cole Swindell.
Scotty told fans he’d been brushing up on his golf skills all week but wound up “shooting about as bad as I have ever shot.” “I will never figure out this sport, but it’s so much fun, I’m going to keep trying,” he said.
Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley said that he’d played golf while Hilary Scott, co-lead singer of Lady A with him, was pregnant. “That kept me sane. Though today my game was not as good as Jake Owens’ or Darius Rucker’s. I grew up in Augusta (Ga.), so you have to play golf there.”
The CBS special is filled with highlights, surprises and incredible duets, including Shakira teamed with co-host Blake Shelton. The tribute to Merle Haggard will probably be a tearjerker as former Wynn resident star Garth Brooks presents the lifetime-achievement Icon Award.
Then there’s the edge-of-the-seat drama unfolding for Entertainer of the Year: will Miranda beat out her husband Blake Shelton, or will he topple his co-host Luke? Will it be a newcomer (Taylor Swift) or an old-timer (George Strait)? Voting continues right up until the last 30 minutes of the show, and because fans solely decide it, it will be a surprise to the stars and producers.
However, it will be the Florida Georgia Line fireworks and Nitro Circus that will really stun the audience at Mandalay Bay and global viewers from Canada to Australia.
FGL told me Saturday after they performed “This Is How We Roll” three times for camera blockings, “Well, this is a first for live television. It was pretty amazing doing the video, but this has to top that.
“We’re not even watching the cyclists do their somersaults over us and the drummer; otherwise, we’ll lose the sense of the song with Luke. But this really is how we roll — excitement, action, thrills and some danger!
“This whole Las Vegas experience is incredible for us. It’s all gone so fast. Just a couple of years we’re here, and last year we just played at Mandalay, and now we’re hosting from Mandalay Bay — and have our own show after the telecast. Yeah, we’d say that’s a meteoric rise! We are so grateful to the fans who support us. It’s been an incredible experience so far, and this Nitro marathon tops it.”
Check back to Vegas DeLuxe as the red carpet gets underway, and then follow our tweets @robin_leach and @johnnykats.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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