Country singers honored victims of a mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas instead of accepting awards at the CMT Artists of the Year show last (October 18th) night.
The format of the show changed this year to focus on victims of the shooting, as well as those recovering from hurricanes and wildfires, with a night of somber tributes, inspirational anthems and voices lifted in harmony.
Jason Aldean, who was on stage at the Route 91 Harvest Festival when the shooting occurred Oct. 1, stood side-by-side with the night’s other award winners, including Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban, to dedicate the night to country music fans. The honorees did not accept awards or give speeches as usual, but some chose to perform or other musicians performed in their honor.
“We’ve been tested beyond our worst nightmare these past few months,” Aldean said during the live broadcast from Nashville, Tennessee. “Heartbroken doesn’t even begin to describe how some of us feel. But we have proven time and again in this country that we have the power to overcome anything that threatens our way of life, or our freedom. We dedicate this night to you and everyone who has experienced loss or tragedy in the last few months.”
Rock legend Tom Petty passed away the day after the Las Vegas shootings, so Jason Aldean, Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban and Little Big Town ended the show with a group performance of Petty’s hit “I Won’t Back Down.”
“On this night when we usually celebrate a year of music, we also want to celebrate a year of incredible human spirit, the spirit we see in our fans every night,” Stapleton said.
“So in some small way we want to thank you for your resolve and perhaps lift your spirits for just a moment,” Urban said.
The names of the 58 victims from Las Vegas were listed during an “in memoriam” segment, along with the names of Tom Petty, Gregg Allman, Glen Campbell, Don Williams and Troy Gentry.
Near the end of the night, Luke Bryan took a moment to honor his friend Aldean.
“It could have been any one of us standing on that stage two weeks ago,” Bryan said. “It’s a nightmare that nobody should have to face. Jason has responded with dignity, care, respect and, some ways, defiance. And we all proud of him, especially me.”