Luke Bryan and a slew of all-star special guests opened the 2018 CMA Awards with a performance of Bryan's recent single "What Makes You Country." The song is the title track of Bryan's 2017 album, and it shares its name with his 2018 tour.

Prior to the opening performance, Garth Brooks took to the stage to lead the audience in a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in California. The names of the 12 lives lost on Nov. 7 were shown on the screen while the crowd and all those watching at home remembered all those affected by the tragic shooting.

With that, Bryan took the stage, asking the crowd to help us all remember why country music is so important before breaking into his performance of "What Makes You Country." Backed first by just his band, Bryan didn't stay on stage alone for long. He was quickly joined by some of country music's best newcomers, including Luke Combs, Chris Janson, Lindsay Ell, Cole Swindell, Jon Pardi and Ashley McBryde. The group traded off singing while Ell and McBryde added their guitar chops to the mix, creating an engaging and energetic opening to the 2018 CMA Awards.

“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 said in a press release ahead of the 2018 CMA Awards. “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.”

“What Makes You Country” was written by Bryan along with Dallas Davidson and Ashley Gorley. Bryan is nominated for Entertainer of the Year at the 2018 CMA Awards.

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