Saturday Night Live opened its first show since Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas with an emotional performance and speech by country music superstar Jason Aldean. Jason was performing on stage at the Route 91 Harvest Festival when the shooting that left 58 dead another 489 injured began. During his speech the singer took on a somber but hopeful tone as he addressed the camera saying, “This week, we witnessed one of the worst tragedies in American history. Like everyone, I’m struggling to understand what happened that night and how to pick up the pieces and start to heal. So many people are hurting. There are children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends. They’re all part of our family. So I want to say to them, we hurt for you and we hurt with you. But you can be sure that we’re going to walk through these tough times together, every step of the way. Because when America is at its best, our bond and our spirit — it’s unbreakable.”
Jason went on to perform Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” Tom Petty died at the age of 66 on Monday of an apparent heart attack–just one day after the Las Vegas shooting. The song was an appropriate tribute both to the victims of the attack and to the late singer. Tom Petty memorably performed the song live in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, instantly turning it into an anthem for American strength and perseverance.
The S.N.L. performance by Jason Aldean fell on a night when he was scheduled to be singing elsewhere. The Any Ol’ Barstool singer cancelled this weekend’s shows saying in a statement earlier this week, “I feel like out of respect for the victims, their families and our fans, it is the right thing to do.”