“Luke-alikes” and lots of wine: Luke Combs, Michael Ray, Lauren Alaina, Midland and Carly Pearce are 2018's New Faces

ABC/Randy HolmesWednesday night in Nashville, Carly PearceMichael RayMidlandLauren Alaina and Luke Combs followed in the footsteps of superstars like Reba McEntireGeorge Strait and Tim McGraw, playing the New Faces show at Music City’s Omni Hotel.

Since 1970, the closing show of Country Radio Seminar has predicted which artists will go on to find lasting success in the music business. In the 2018 class, every member has already scored their first #1, with Michael, Lauren and Luke each having had two chart toppers.

Carly’s future tour mates Rascal Flatts made a special appearance in her intro video, congratulating the Kentucky native by giving her one of her favorite things: a bottle of wine. By the clip’s end, Carly was so weighted down with vino, she could barely walk. The bit closed with a phone call from her Country Music Freaks tour partner Blake Shelton, who also sent along a bottle — this time, a giant one.

“I moved to Nashville nine years ago because all I’ve ever wanted to do is sing country music,” Carly said, as she breezed through a powerful set that included “Careless,” “If My Name Was Whiskey,” “Hide the Wine” and her breakthrough hit, “Every Little Thing.”

In his intro video, Michael Ray remembered his grandfather who fostered his love for classic country music. In addition to his hits “Kiss You in the Morning,” “Get to You” and “Think a Little Less,” the Florida native debuted a new ballad:  “Her World or Mine,” which will be one of the tracks on his forthcoming sophomore album, due sometime this year.

Midland came out wearing capes reminiscent of Elvis, after a comic spoof of a Billboard interview gone wrong. “What a difference a year makes!” lead singer Mark Wystrach observed, as the trio offered a performance that included “Make a Little,” “Burn Out” and “Drinkin’ Problem.”

Lauren Alaina appeared on stage seated behind a piano, accompanying herself as she started with her emotional ballad, “Three.” She followed her current single, “Doin’ Fine,” with a solo version of her #1 with Kane Brown, “What Ifs,” as well her first song to make it to the top, “Road Less Traveled.”

The night’s final performance came from Luke Combs, who explored the “Luke-alikes” phenomenon in his intro video, explaining he often sees men with red beards who look like him at concerts these days.

Once the curtain parted, it turned out it wasn’t Luke at all who was standing at center stage. He shooed away the “Luke-alike” to start his set with the track “Honky Tonk Highway,” with a snippet of Brooks and Dunn’s “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” thrown in.

“Thank you for believing in a regular dude from North Carolina,” Luke remarked, before doing “When It Rains It Pours,” as well as his new single, “One Number Away.” “This is the song that changed my life,” he added, as he launched into “Hurricane.”  

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