CMA Awards 2018: Luke Bryan Brings out Surprise Guests During Opening Performance

Luke Bryan shone a spotlight on country music's young talent during his performance opening the 2018 Country Music Association Awards.

The country music star wowed audiences at the Bridgestone Arena during the live show performing his single "What Makes You Country" alongside surprise guests Cole Swindell, Luke Combs, Lindsey Ell, Ashley McBryde and Chris Janson.

After a moment of silence dedicated to the 12 lives lost in the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, Bryan started his performance.

"All right CMAs, let's do what we do best. And let's be proud of what makes us country tonight," he said before his performance.

Ahead of the performance, Bryan teased that his surprise guests would appear in an opportunity to take the stage on country music's biggest night.

"When we began talking about this performance, I thought this would be a perfect time to share the stage with a few deserving artists who may not otherwise have an opportunity to be a part of the show," Bryan told The Boot in a press release. "This genre is full of talented performers doing what makes them country, and this is the perfect song to let them step in the spotlight to be seen and heard by the millions tuning in."

Fans of the country music star took to Twitter to celebrate the opening performance.

"PROPS to Luke Bryan and bringing out all the new kids! OPENING performance," one user commented.

"Loved that Luke brought out the newbies. Well Cole Swindel is not new, but love him too," another user wrote.

In addition to Bryan, the 2018 CMA Awards will see performances by Eric Church, Kelsea Ballerini, Dan + Shay, Old Dominion, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley and the Brothers Osborne, Florida Georgia Line and bebe Rexha, Kacey Musgraves, the Pistol Annies, Thomas Rhett, Jason Aldean with Miranda Lambert, Garth Brooks, Luke Combs, Midland, Brett Young, Lauren Alaina, Brad Paisley, Ricky Skaggs and Chris Stapleton with Maren Morris and Mavis Staples.

Kenny Chesney was set to perform alongside David Lee Murphy during the awards ceremony, but he pulled out of the show last minute after suffering a death in the family.

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"CMA Musical Event of the Year winner & Entertainer of the Year nominee Kenny Chesney will be unable to appear on tonight's telecast due to a death in the family," The Country Music Association announced on Twitter.

The 2018 CMA Awards are being held at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. Paisley and Underwood serve as co-hosts of the event for the 11th consecutive year.