Brooks & Dunn headlined the Freedom Friday concert at the Big Machine Music Grand Prix in Nashville, but the country duo were not the only act fans crowded to see.

A festival-like audience filtered in from Super Truck practice or from the Family Fun Zone to see Mark Collie, Tyer Farr, John Elefante of the rock band Kansas and more, but the show found its pace as darkness fell and rocker Vince Neil took the stage for three wild songs that the crowd lapped up.

It was an ambitious setup for a concert. Each act (seven total, minus Morgan Wallen who was on the schedule but didn't make it) played two or three songs, with the band Sixwire tasked with keeping up. Few can pivot from Motley Crue's "Wild Side" to Jamey Johnson's "That Lonesome Song" with ease and elegance, but they did. The country traditionalist closed his micro-set with a cover of Tom T. Hall's "Faster Horses" (with horns!), which upon reflection should be simply too much to ask with little rehearsal. It may have been the night's finest moment.

Fans in attendance may argue that "In Color" earned that accolade, however. While never a true country radio hit, respect for the nostalgic ballad has only grown in the decade-plus since it stopped getting major radio airplay. Johnson commands the microphone like very few in country music; it's really hard to think of another singer that can yank you out of a conversation so effortlessly as he does when he starts with, "I said Grandpa, what's this picture here." 

The final chorus of the song found the wizardly veteran stepping back from the microphone, however. It was a moment that reminded how much one misses these moments.

Chase Rice followed, heaping praise on Johnson to the point that you wondered if even he thought the show order should have been reversed. Then came Brooks & Dunn, who offered a micro-glimpse of the Reboot Tour, set to begin Sept. 2. "Rock My World" and "Neon Moon" opened their triumphant return to a Nashville stage. Not long after, fireworks exploded from over Nissan Stadium, punctuating a night that saved its best lap for last.

Jason Kempin, Getty Images

Night two's schedule for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix finds Jon Pardi on stage at 8:30PM. Sunday (Aug. 8) will feature the Oak Ridge Boys, Justin Moore, Riley Green and more for a show called Grand Ole Opry at the Track.

Jason Kempin, Getty Images
Jason Kempin, Getty Images

Top Country Songs of 2021, Ranked

You'll find much more than just the Top 10 Country Songs of 2021 on this list.

Our team has sourced fans to create 10 superlatives for this mid-year version of the year-end songs list. Best Country Tearjerker? Best Country Baby-Maker? Best Country Breakup Song of 2021? Keith Urban, Carly Pearce, Chris Bandi and more help make up this portion of the Top Country Songs list, while hitmakers like Thomas Rhett and Little Big Town lead the 10 best songs portion.

Did your favorite song of 2021 make this list? To be considered, the song must have been released in 2021 or have actively charted for a portion of the year (see "Wine, Beer, Whiskey"). New artists including Lainey Wilson, Breland and Triston Marez crack the Top 10. Let us know your favorite song of 2021 at Twitter or email, at staff@tasteofcountry.com.