The Journal Gazette
Thursday, September 17, 2020 1:00 am

Crowd-less Opry hosts 55th ACMs

Swift appears for 1st time in 7 years

KRISTIN M. HALL | Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Country-turned-pop star Taylor Swift didn't need a lot of bells and whistles for her highly anticipated return to the 55th annual Academy of Country Music Awards.

Taylor Swift made her first appearance at the ACMs in seven years Wednesday with an acoustic performance of her song “betty” from her new record “Folklore” in a darkened Grand Ole Opry House.

Country group Old Dominion took an early lead at the Academy of Country Music Awards, winning song of the year and group of the year.

Carrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett tied for entertainer of the year, the first time the top prize has ever been split between two artists.

Underwood and Rhett seemed equally surprised after host Keith Urban announced the tie.

“Keith, what is happening right now?” Rhett asked, astounded, before thanking his family. Underwood appeared right after him remarking, “2020, right?” before adding, “I am more than happy to share this with Thomas Rhett.”

The awards show aired from empty venues in Nashville, Tennessee, with no fans and no applause, even when winners got up live to accept their awards. Matthew Ramsey, lead singer of Old Dominion, said the empty venue and quiet made him think of friends and family they had lost.

“I can feel them all,” Ramsey said on the stage as he accepted the award for song of the year for “One Man Band.” “They are so proud, and it's such an honor to receive this in their presence.”

Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett and Carrie Underwood, all vying for entertainer of the year, sang to empty seats and no applause at the Grand Ole Opry House, the Ryman Auditorium and the Bluebird Cafe.

Urban noted all the changes this year for the show and for the country in general, saying 2020 has been an “unpredictable and unsettling year.”

After noting wildfires on the West Coast, hurricanes in the South, Urban said the country is battling two pandemics: COVID-19 and social injustice.

“Far too many lives have been lost to both,” he said.

Combs won album of the year for his record “What You See Is What You Get.”

Underwood sang a tribute to iconic female Opry members, including Patsy Cline, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Barbara Mandrell, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton.

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