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“Nashville is back,” Keith Urban declared alongside Mickey Guyton to help kick off the 2021 ACM Awards, held from Nashville on Sunday night (Apr. 18). Standing onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, the pair of co-hosts delivered a short monologue that sprinkled in a few laughs along with a triumphant outlook on country music’s return from a pandemic-stricken year.

“Tonight we’re gonna be celebrating not only the best in country music, we’re also celebrating the progress that’s been made by this great city of Nashville — and of course, cities right across America,” Urban told the audience. “We’ve been through so much, but I’m very proud to say that we are very much on our way back and we’ve done it with a lot of fight, and a lot of help.”

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Meanwhile, Guyton thanked the audience members — who were masked, socially distanced, vaccinated healthcare workers from Vanderbilt Health — and noted that her sister is a nurse. “You guys are our army right now, and this would not be possible without you,” said the rising country star.

Urban congratulated his co-host during a breakthrough year, which included the acclaimed hit “Black Like Me,” a show-stopping Grammys performance, and the welcoming of her first baby. “This is the most adult interaction I’ve had in three months,” Guyton said with a laugh, “so I’m very excited to be here, without the diapers”

Just like last September’s ACM Awards ceremony — which was delayed due to the pandemic — the 2021 ACMs will bounce around Nashville, with performances at famed locales like the Ryman Auditorium and Bluebird Cafe. Urban and Guyton’s opening was preceded by Miranda Lambert and Elle King’s performance of “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home).”

The ACM Awards are produced by Dick Clark Productions, which is owned by MRC. MRC and Penske Media are co-parent companies of Billboard.

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