updated 11/20/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 11/20/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST
Almost three weeks after checking himself into rehab for alcohol abuse, Keith Urban won male vocalist of the year and a standing ovation. In an acceptance note read by cohost Ronnie Dunn, Urban expressed tender words for Nicole Kidman ("To my wife, Nicole, I love you") and gratitude to his fans. Friends spoke out in support. "I really respect him as a musician," Kenny Chesney told PEOPLE, "but even more as a person." Added singer Craig Morgan: "I'm thinking about Keith every day. He don't have to be here to win."
FACE OF FAITH
When Carrie Underwood won the female vocalist of the year award, a backstage camera caught fellow nominee Faith Hill appearing to throw up her hands in victory, then scream "What?" Her manager says the singer was just joking: "She was being playful while the nominations were being read and playful after." Added Hill in a statement: "The idea that I would act disrespectful towards a fellow musician is unimaginable to me.... Carrie is a talented and deserving [winner]."
Carrie's Shining Moment
Her gown, her guy, her glitz! Inside the American Idol alum's big night
At a fitting last month, Carrie Underwood had a request for designer David Rodriguez (below): "Don't make it super shapely—I'll have to suck in more!" But on awards night, the singer was breathing easy. "It fits great," she told PEOPLE about her Chantilly lace and silk dress strung with nearly 800 Kwiat diamonds. (The dress will be auctioned for charity at Gotta HaveIt.com starting Nov. 29.) "I wouldn't go play basketball or anything [in it], but it's as good as it can get!"
CARRIE'S DRESS: BY THE NUMBERS
108 carats of diamonds
$850,000 value of the gems
17 yards of silk and lace
50 hours to sew and pleat
1 number of armored trucks required to transport it
She brought fellow Idol Anthony Fedorov to the awards, but they're just platonic, says Underwood: "He's a friend. I wanted a date where I could have a good time." Fedorov says her big night won't go to her head. "She's still the same shy country girl," he says. "That's what I love about her."