Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley and Darius Rucker were among the more than a dozen artists who came out to play the Bobby Bones & the Raging Idiots’ Million Dollar Show 3 at Ryman Auditorium Monday.
Proceeds from the concert will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. To date, Bones has raised more than $7.6 million for the not-for-profit Memphis-based hospital that treats children regardless of their family’s ability to pay.
“I thought I would go to St. Jude and be so scared that I wouldn’t do anything with it because I didn’t want to see kids hurting,” Bones said of first visiting the hospital about four years ago. “But when you walk into the hospital, these kids who are going through the worst circumstances, their faces are so bright because they’re being loved. You’re drawn to it and I have a platform to be able to use it. I never take that for granted.”
The popular country radio personality kicked the show off with his band the Raging Idiots, which includes singers Brandon Ray and Natalie Stovall. The group was on stage most of the night, also playing between sets and often remaining on stage to accompany Bones’ guest artists.
Dan + Shay were the concert’s first guests and treated fans to a mini-set including No. 1 hit “How Not To” and their popular new ballad “Tequila.” Nikita Karmen, who used to appear on The Bobby Bones Show, covered Tom Petty’s “Free Falling.” Maren Morris delivered powerful versions of her hits “My Church” and “I Could Use a Love Song.” Brandon Lancaster from LANCO dropped by to sing the band’s hit “Greatest Love Story” and Luke Combs turned in his No. 1 hit “Hurricane” and a cover of Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey.”
“Any time we can do something for St. Jude, helping the kids, I don’t think anybody could ever say no to that,” said Combs, who will play a sold-out two-night stand at Ryman Auditorium in February. “Plus, you get to play here with your buddies, have fun, play some songs, there’s great fans and you’re at the Ryman. Any time you get to do that, it’s pretty cool.”
Lancaster, who grew up in Smyrna, changed travel plans at the last minute to play the event. His decision developed into a career milestone when the sold-out crowd sang “Greatest Love Story” along with him during his acoustic performance.
“That was incredible,” Lancaster said as soon as he walked off the stage. “I grew up going to concerts here, and it’s such a historic venue so to be on that stage and having people sing your song with you is definitely a magical moment for me.”
Leading up to the concert, Bones promised listeners there would be unannounced guests. While Bentley and LANCO weren’t on the original line-up, it was pop group Hanson who pulled off the night’s biggest surprise.
“If you don’t know, this room is special to musicians all over the world,” said Hanson’s Taylor Hanson, explaining the trio was going throw back to the early days of the famous venue with an a cappella version of their single “I Was Born.”
Taylor Hanson and his brothers Zac Hanson and Isaac Hanson clustered at the edge of the stage, snapping their fingers and harmonizing on the song’s lyrics. The Hansons rhythmically stomped their feet and the audience followed, sending a heavy echo cascading through the room. The atmosphere shifted with the first notes of the group’s “Mmmbop,” the trio’s career-making hit.
Rucker joined Bones and the Raging Idiots for a cover of “Purple Rain” then claimed the spotlight with current single “For the First Time.” He got people singing along with “Wagon Wheel” and kept the party going with Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Hold My Hand.” Ray wowed on a cover of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Bentley launched his surprise set with his emotional hit “I Hold On” and followed with Diamond Rio’s “Meet in the Middle.” Bentley intended to cluster his band around a vintage-style microphone at the front of the stage to perform his new single “Woman, Amen.” The microphone failed and Bentley and crew improvised with an unplanned acoustic version of the song that resonated through the auditorium with such intention that it sounded timeless.
Urban closed the show with a solo version of “Wasted Time,” letting fans carry most of the lyrics. Bones and his Raging Idiots’ joined Urban on his multi-week No. 1 “Blue Ain’t Your Color.”
The evening ended with the audience chanting, “One more song.”