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CMA Fest’s Saturday Night Nissan Stadium Shows: 5 Top Moments

Right next to Nissan Stadium in Nashville — just across the parking lot — is the Davidson County Juvenile Detention Center, where Antioch, Tennessee, native Jelly Roll spent years incarcerated as a teen. His underdog story has brought him from a jail cell to center stage at Nissan Stadium, headlining CMA Fest’s Saturday night show.

The crowd was already cheering before the hometown hero took the stage, and he rewarded their applause by performing “The Lost.” Pausing to take in the triumphant, full-circle moment, Jelly Roll — and many in the audience — were soon in tears. But those tears didn’t last long before turning into a joyous celebration.

“I am from Nashville, Tennessee!” he shouted to the crowd, which roared back with equal enthusiasm. “My father brought me here 23 years ago when the Tennessee Titans first came to town — this is a dream come true… playing to a sold-out Nissan Stadium crowd… and I’m getting to perform the No. 1 on country radio right this moment,” he said, before launching into his current (and fourth) Billboard Country Airplay No. 1, “Halfway to Hell.” The performance was heightened by Keith Urban playing guitar during the performance.

One year ago, he got a taste of headlining at the stadium when he performed on the platform stage at CMA Fest, but on Saturday night, he fully made that dream come true. He dedicated his set to the teens that are currently in the juvenile center.

“I know they can hear us because I was one of them, one time. I was in and out of jail and in and out of drug addiction, and tonight I am headlining CMA Fest at Nissan Stadium,” he said. Launching into “Son of a Sinner,” with lights aglow all around the stadium, he said, “I’m here to tell you you can do whatever you want in life, I don’t give a f— what anybody says,” before praising country music as “the genre that saved my life.”

Jelly Roll’s shows have become part concert, part therapy session, part spiritual revival for those who identify as an outcast, feel misunderstood, are struggling with addiction, or are simply working through any personal struggles — and his CMA Fest set was no exception.

“This is a come one, come all kind of crew,’ he said. He later added, “I am here to represent the lost and the broken,” before performing his new song “I Am Not Ok.”

Prior to making country music, Jelly Roll was primarily known as a rapper, and he passionately and effortlessly sailed through a medley of rap classics, including Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” and Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson,” before performing his own collaboration “Wild Ones” (sans Jessie Murph). The crowd’s reaction was so fervent that the singer-songwriter collapsed onto a riser on the stage, laughing in amazement. Later on, wife Bunnie XO made a brief appearance and shared a kiss with Jelly Roll.

From there, he offered up his four-week No. 1 Country Airplay hit “Need a Favor,” with the audience waving hands high in the air. He then followed up with his two-week No. 1 “Save Me,” welcoming labelmate Lainey Wilson back to the festival stage with a hug. Jelly Roll then returned solo to center stage, waving his hat to the crowd and thanking the audience for their part in his triumph story.

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