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2013 ACMA preview: Hosts Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan, plus, George Strait and Garth Brooks


Tom Donoghue /

Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert arrive at the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 1, 2012.

2012 ACM Awards: Arrivals at MGM Grand

Carrie Underwood arrives at the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 1, 2012. Launch slideshow »

2012 ACM Awards: Winners Backstage

Miranda Lambert backstage at the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 1, 2012. Launch slideshow »

For the first time in more than a decade, country queen Reba McEntire won’t be hosting the Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday. Instead, she’ll be in an up-front seat watching former co-host Blake Shelton handle the chores at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

He’s landed handsome and hot country singer Luke Bryan as his co-host for the 48th annual, 3-hour broadcast on CBS, and if the two self-described rowdy boys get out of line, Reba will doubtlessly leap out of her seat to put the show back on track. Even more rivalry exists between Blake and Luke, as both are nominated for Entertainer of the Year.

CBS execs have increased the normal 5-second delay by another 3 seconds as a safety measure based on fears that #Bluke will get into so much trouble, they’ll forget that they are on live television.

Producer R.A. Clark, the son of the late Dick Clark, explained: “Anything can happen with those two -- and probably will. They just have too much fun together. We learned from shooting the promos that they have so much fun, they forget they are on live. I’m glad we have a longer-than-normal delay. I can’t even talk about their outtakes when we shot the promos.”

CBS Specials and Live Programming chief Jack Sussman added: “Their chemistry should result in some colorful moments. Their personalities will drive the tone and tenor of the show, but I’m thankful we have the delay.”

It’s been an explosive year for Luke, the hot country artist who’s been compared to Elvis for his hip swiveling and handsome movie star looks. He plans on making Sunday’s opening a “right out of the block” sensation. Blake’s hit “Boys Round Here” in its premiere performance and Luke’s “Country Girl Shake It For Me” will have lyrics that can change for gents and ladies.

Expect to see several stars onstage for the opening, including Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert and her Pistol Annies, Sheryl Crow, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Brad, who’ll then dash back to Fan Jam duties at The Orleans Arena.

There’s a slew of other star pairings in this year’s broadcast. In addition to the first-time remarkable duo of former Wynn headliner Garth Brooks and country legend George Strait, Hunter Hayes teams with Stevie Wonder. Hunter, who’ll premiere his new single, has narrowed down the duet to one of two choices they’ll determine just before the show. There’s speculation that Kelly Clarkson will perform “Don’t Rush” as a duo, but whether it’s with Vince Gill or another celebrity remains a surprise.

Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan

Brad Paisley

Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton

Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan

Garth and George will each perform one of their own hits and then join to perform one of the other’s bestselling hits. Insiders are betting that it’ll be “Unwound,” the 1981 smash that George sang when Garth was just a teenager who heard it and says made him want to become a country singer. They requested that the ACM Entertainer of the Decade be renamed the Dick Clark Entertainer of the Decade Award to honor the show’s longtime producer.

No less than country queen Reba will make that debut presentation. She’ll also introduce Garth and George’s segment. Jewel will perform a mashup of her hit “Hands” with an original song by Tori Kelly, “Fill A Heart,” for the Child Hunger Ends Here campaign for ACM’s charity Lifting Lives.

“There’s more entertainment packed into this show than any other awards show on television,” said Bob Romeo, ACM executive director. “We get 10 pounds into every 1-pound bag. The show is not just country; it’s about great music, and everybody sings live, so that translates to really great live TV. Everyone steps it up. … The talent alone for the first hour is monstrous, and it keeps growing for the 2 hours that follow.”

It’s not solely onstage singers including Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town and The Band Perry; there also is an all-star lineup of presenters including Michael Chiklis, Beth Behrs, Kaley Cuoco, Nancy O’Dell, Tori Kelly, LL Cool J, John Fogerty, Colin Kaepernick and Willie and Korie Robertson.

In all, more than 130 artists will be here for the four days of ACM events at MGM Grand, The Orleans and on Fremont Street as Sin City looks more like Nashville’s Tin Pan Alley than ever before. At The Orleans, Brad’s Fan Jam includes Hunter, Dierks Bentley, Brantley Gilbert, New Artist of the Year and New Female Vocalist nominee Jana Kramer and Florida Georgia Line.

The three-day ACM Experience starting Friday at The Orleans features The Band Perry, Kix Brooks, Eli Young Band, Cowboy Troy, The Henningsens, Easton Corbin, Thompson Square, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Beth Chapman and more.

For the seventh consecutive year, ACM has free concerts on two Fremont Street stages. On Friday, New Female Vocalist of the Year nominee Sunny Sweeney kicks off a nightlong session with Joe Nichols, Kip Moore and Gary Allan. On Saturday, the stars are Chris Janson, Randy Houser, Jana Kramer and Jake Owen.

More than 13 million viewers are expected to watch Sunday’s awards. The ACMAs return to MGM Grand next year but move to Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in 2015 for its 50th anniversary. ACM execs promise to return here in 2016 and say the week Vegas Goes Country will be bigger and stronger.

“It has to expand, maybe an extra day, an extra location,” said Bob. “We’re selling out everything to all our events, and it’s getting tight, so we’ll be ready to raise the bar when we come back in 2016. Las Vegas is a great home for us, and we’re here to say.”

It all wraps Monday night with 15-time ACMA winner and Venetian headliner Tim McGraw’s “Superstar Summer Night” 2-hour concert being taped for May 19 broadcast on CBS. It kicks off his 2013 touring season, and proceeds go to Lifting Lives. Tim’s star-studded lineup includes wife Faith Hill, Jason Aldean, Dierks, Luke, Taylor, Keith, Lady A, The Band Perry, Ne-Yo, Pitbull, Florida Georgia Line and Nelly.

We’ll have extensive ACM coverage -- previews, red carpet reports, live blogging, tweets and photos -- so check back regularly during the weekend and early next week.

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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