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Luke Bryan headlines best show money can’t buy at Ovation


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Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan and Academy of Country Music Executive Director Bob Romeo backstage during ACM Presents: Brooks & Dunn - The Last Rodeo at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 19, 2010.

Last night provided an opportunity for country music fans in Las Vegas to see four of the genre's rising stars on one stage for a night of unforgettable performances. Headliner Luke Bryan joined forces with David Nail, Steel Magnolia and Frankie Ballard for 95.5 KWNR's Listener Appreciation Concert in the Ovation Room at Green Valley Ranch.

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Luke Bryan at the ACM/USO concert at Nellis Air Force Base on April 2, 2011.

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Steel Magnolia arrives at the 46th Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 3, 2011.

What started as an intimate, acoustic-in-the-round performance turned into an all-out honky-tonk party as ladies in the capacity crowd took turns buying shots for each artist and offering Bryan their lingerie.

In the first of four rounds, Ballard got the evening started with his debut single, "Tell Me You Get Lonely," before providing guitar support to Bryan on his No. 1 "Rain Is a Good Thing." Ballard offered a memorable guitar solo to the whiskey-drinking anthem, which Bryan confessed he taught the stage's most junior artist just moments before the show.

Next, the Grammy-nominated Nail sang "Red Light" before Steel Magnolia played its self-proclaimed hookup song "Last Night Again." The male half of the duo, Joshua Scott Jones, joked while introducing the song, "Hell, even if y'all haven't hooked up, well, your parents have." Magnolia's spot-on harmonies blended seamlessly into Jones' guitar, making a convincing argument for the act's placement on an acoustic bill such as this.

Round two was for the evening's super fans, as none of the artists' four songs can be found on any country chart. Ballard finger-picked his way through guitar riffs on "This Is How I Feel About You," a tune he says will be released with his second album. Bryan played "Drunk on You," a medium tempo summer love song laced with imagery that has become synonymous with the Georgia native. Nail offered "That's How I'll Remember You," a cut off his forthcoming album that could easily be his first No. 1 single, and Steel Magnolia closed the round with "Bulletproof," a tune described by Meghan Linsey -- the duo's female half -- as a little something for the ladies.

Speaking of the ladies, they got a little rowdy when Ballard started round three with his current Top 30 single "A Buncha Girls." Bryan played "We Rode in Trucks" at Nail's request before diving into his own "Strangers on a Train," a song he admitted to rarely playing live. Finally, Steel Magnolia did "Without You," featuring an outro of Kenny Chesney's current hit "You and Tequila" with Grace Potter.

No country party would be complete without a free-flowing bottle of Jack, and this one was no exception. In fact, during a momentary break where a round of drinks interrupted a round of songs, Ballard and Bryan declared the country crooners had bonded onstage like a wolf pack straight out of The Hangover.

When the focus turned back to music, Ballard, a native of The Wolverine State, paid homage to fellow Michigander Bob Seger with a rendition of "Night Moves" that was rewarded with some of the evening's most thunderous applause. Bryan and Nail played their current singles "Country Girl Shake It For Me" and "Let It Rain," respectively, before Jones and Linsey went back to 2009 with their debut single, "Keep On Lovin' You."

After 16 songs and nearly two hours, the ensemble brought the Ovation Room to its feet with a raw and unrehearsed medley of more than half a dozen songs that included "Fishing in the Dark" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, "Hillbilly Deluxe" and "Boot Scootin' Boogie" by Brooks and Dunn, "Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House" by Garth Brooks and "Copperhead Road" by Steve Earle.

Because fans could gain admission to the show only by winning tickets from KWNR, last night's Listener Appreciation Concert was the best show money couldn't buy.

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