Someone give the 2020 CMT Music Awards an award for best remote locations. The Country Music Television Awards, which recognize music videos, leaned into the remoteness of it all on October 21, with performances coming live from a slew of locations across Tennessee and the world. And honestly, we could get used to this. The show opened from an outdoor stage at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in Nashville, a sort of home base for the night. From there, Luke Combs shotgunned a beer during his opening performance of “1, 2 Many” with Brooks & Dunn and Noah Cyrus joined Jimmie Allen for a powerful duet of their song “This Is Us,” just after dueting with sister Miley for her MTV Unplugged special last weekend.
Then there were the special locations. Just an hour outside Nashville, Little Big Town brought one of the night’s best performances from Ruskin Cave, where they projected liquor bottles onto the walls for a spunky “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” that echoed throughout the venue. Morgan Wallen also took the “stage” at Ruskin Cave, surrounded by glowing liquor bottles himself, to sing “Chasin’ You” for his first performance since losing his Saturday Night Live slot for unsafe partying during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elsewhere in Tennessee, Ashley McBryde gave new meaning to the term barn-burner, performing her song “Martha Divine” from a venue literally called the Barn at Sycamore Farms, surrounded by farm tools. Luke Bryan also closed the show singing “What She Wants Tonight” from an island on a pond outside the Barn. Dan + Shay stuck to the show’s theme, bringing the bed from the set of their “I Should Probably Go to Bed” video to their performance at the Estate at Cherokee Dock. And Maren Morris gave an intimate acoustic performance of her song “To Hell and Back” from an attic in Ashland, Tennessee, proving that you don’t always need to be flashy.
Two of the performers even showed up from outside Tennessee. Kelsea Ballerini and Halsey climbed all over an empty bar in Los Angeles for their fiery duet “the other girl.” Music video when? And Shania Twain remained the queen of remote country performances, this time coming at us from Chaplin’s World in Switzerland, where she has a home. Twain performed “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her sophomore album, The Woman in Me. She played off the museum’s many Charlie Chaplin statues, recalling her music video for the song, where she failed to grab the attention of a bar full of men with her singing. It was the night’s wonderfully absurd highlight, which otherwise couldn’t have happened if the show went on live from Bridgestone Arena as normal. So let’s keep some of this energy when live shows come back, all right?