NASHVILLE (AP) – Beyonce conquered a stage she’s never performed on: The singer sang her twangy song “Daddy Lessons” alongside the Dixie Chicks at the Country Music Association Awards on a night celebrating the organization’s 50th anniversary.
It was the first time Beyonce, who is from Houston, performed at the country awards show, and the performance also marked a return for the Dixie Chicks, who hadn’t attended the CMA Awards in some time.
“Everybody get on your feet. Put your hands together,” Beyonce told the crowd Wednesday at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Beyonce sported a sheer champagne-colored dress that plunged in the center and layered pearls around her neck. Faith Hill sang along, Trisha Yearwood clapped and Miranda Lambert moved side to side during the song, which the Dixie Chicks have also covered at their live shows.
A mix of classic and contemporary country stars kicked off the show with 12 performances to celebrate its milestone anniversary, including Randy Travis, Vince Gill, Carrie Underwood, Charley Pride and Merle Haggard’s youngest son, Ben. Brad Paisley, Roy Clark, Alabama, Charlie Daniels, Reba, Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson and Dwight Yoakam also helped start the show, singing songs like “Mama Tried” and “Forever And Ever, Amen.”
Later in the show, Jason Aldean sang Brooks & Dunn’s “Brand New Man” with the duo; couple Garth Brooks and Yearwood performed a medley together; and Little Big Town sang their new song, “Better Man,” which was written by Taylor Swift, who will present entertainer of the year.
Paisley and Underwood, returning as hosts for the ninth time, told jokes about politics, Wikileaks, Brangelina’s breakup and more.
“We’re so sick of politics, we don’t even care who wins,” they sang in harmony. At one point, Paisley called Underwood a “nasty woman,” mocking Donald Trump.
Luke Bryan will also perform, and Christmas could come early for the country star at the show: Bryan may have a “three-peat” as entertainer of the year. He’s nominated for the top prize, which he won the last two consecutive years.
His competition this year includes Brooks, Underwood, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban.
Stapleton, Church and newcomer Maren Morris were the overall leaders with five nominations each. Church won album of the year for “Mr. Misunderstood,” released as a surprise album at last year’s CMAs.
“I’m not sure what’s better — winning the award or Faith Hill fixing my tie,” said Church, who was presented the award by Hill.
Church is also nominated for male vocalist of the year, where he will compete with Stapleton, who won music video of the year for “Fire Away.”Related: 2016 nominees for the 50th annual CMA Awards
Morris, who moved the needle this year with her genre-bending album “Hero,” won new artist of the year, and hit several high notes before strumming her guitar to perform the hit, “My Church.”
“Y’all! I can’t win this award right after performing — I’m going to fall apart,” she said onstage. “Last year, I sat across the street at a bar and watched this show. I never thought as a songwriter I’d be standing here today.”
A number of celebrities were in the audience, including Matthew McConaughey, Peyton Manning, Jennifer Garner, Olivia Newton-John, Nicole Kidman, and the Final Five Olympic gymnasts: Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian.
Thomas Rhett won single of the year for “Die a Happy Man,” taking home the first award of the night.
“I gotta first thank the Lord … my lovely wife in the blue dress; she was the full inspiration of this song,” said Rhett, adding that he cried during the opening number with Garth Brooks, who was sitting near him.
Lori McKenna won song of the year for writing Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind,” a tune she said was based off a prayer she wrote for her five children. McKenna co-wrote Little Big Town’s megahit “Girl Crush,” earning a Grammy Award this year and last year’s song of the year honor at the CMAs.
“I have a job in this town because of this guy’s wife, Faith Hill,” said McKenna, who was escorted to the stage by McGraw.
Miranda Lambert, George Strait and Kenny Chesney, who earned the Pinnacle Award, also performed. Little Big Town and Brothers Osborne won vocal group and vocal duo of the year, respectively, while Dierks Bentley and Elle King’s “Different for Girls” won musical event of the year.