CBS Radio’s third annual Stars & Strings brought together seven of the biggest stars in country music all on one stage at the Chicago Theatre. 

As a salute to the troops and celebrating the military and veterans, CBS Radio’s Stars & Strings brought together an impressive line-up of country stars. All proceeds from the evening go to Folds of Honor, who provide educational support to the spouses and children of fallen and injured soldiers.

To begin the night, Jim Cornelison, the voice of the Chicago Blackhawks, sang a special performance of the National Anthem to a standing Chicago Theatre. 

Stars & Strings sees artists perform stripped back, acoustic versions of their songs, in a guitar circle format, each taking turns to perform a song in what feels like an intimate setting.

First up was country rocker, Lindsay Ell. It may have been just a brief 10-minute set, but that was all she needed to warm up the packed out theatre. This was Ell’s first time on the iconic Chicago Theatre’s stage, and she didn’t look daunted by this fact. Combining a beautiful voice with some powerful bluesy rock riffs, the singer set the tone for the evening. 

Next up was Kelsea Ballerini. Explaining to the crowd that this would be her last show before getting married, news that clearly upset the male audience members judging by the scattering of boos this announcement received, Ballerini proceeded to wow the crowd with her sweet voice. Performing “I Hate Love Songs” and “Unapologetically” off her sophomore album which was just released on November 3. This was her second time being part of the Stars & Strings line-up, and surely not her last judging by the reaction from the crowd.   

Chris Young joined Kelsea on stage as part of the first “round”. The country crooner looked to be taking in the atmosphere, as he donned a huge smile throughout the first set. This was the first time he performed some of his songs acoustically, but the stripped back versions complimented and showcased his vocal abilities. At just 32 years old, Young has impressively released his seventh album, Losing Sleep, back in October. 

Young introduced the final addition to their guitar circle, the one and only Brad Paisley, who was donning his signature cowboy hat. The two clearly have a great chemistry together, as Young laughed when Paisley forgot the words to his song and Young proceeded to whisper the words to him which he had googled on his phone. This wasn’t the only time Paisley had the audience laughing as he went on to perform his comedic “You’ll Always Be My First (Cousin)”. 

After a brief intermission, it was time for the second circle. First up was Darius Rucker, who had the entire audience on their feet. Moving on from his days as Hootie & The Blowfish, Rucker made the transition to country music back in 2008 and has since been welcomed with open arms. Tonight was no different as the audience were clearly excited to see him as part of the bill. You could barely hear Rucker himself during his performance of “Wagon Wheel” as the collective voices of the audience filled the theater.  

Next to join Rucker on stage were Lady Antebellum, who were greeted by an even bigger cheer. The trio showcased their beautiful harmonies throughout their performance. Their rendition of “You Look Good” off their current album, Heart Break, had the audience on their feet dancing along. Hillary Scott looked radiant and doesn’t have long until her twin girls are due at the beginning of 2018.  

Last but not least, the one the ladies were clearly excited to see judging by the screams as he took to the stage, Sam Hunt. Taking the time to thank Lady Antebellum for enabling him to cultivate his own sound. Musically, 2017 has been a quieter year for Hunt, with him releasing a series of singles, rather than waiting for the completion of his sophomore album. This could be a risky move for so many others, that early on in a singer’s career, however, this doesn’t appear to be the case for Hunt as the fanbase is clearly still backing him every inch of the way, eagerly awaiting news on whether the album will ever come to fruition.  

Whilst there was a 3,500 strong crowd, the show had a strangely intimate feel to it. The pairings on stage worked perfectly, as their chemistry shone through while sharing stories of touring and performing together in the past. It was a fun night, filled with music and laughter, bringing everyone together for a great cause. With the third Stars & Strings under their belt, we’ll just have to wait and see what next year’s line-up will bring.

Sam Hunt
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Lady Antebellum
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Darius Rucker
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Brad Paisley
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Chris Young
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Kelsea Ballerini
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Lindsay Ell
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The Chicago Theatre
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Event Date: 15-NOV-2017

About The Author

Kirstine moved from the UK to Chicago in 2011, and has fallen in love with the city and its music scene. She enjoys combining her two biggest passions – music and photography. If there is a band with a guitar playing, chances are she’ll be there…camera in hand. Kirstine went to her first live concert at 7 years old, and hasn’t looked back since!

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