Jason Aldean, who was performing in Las Vegas last week when a gunman began shooting at the audience, opened Saturday Night Live on October 7 with a tribute to the victims and the late Tom Petty, singing “I Won’t Back Down.”
In the cold opener at the start of the show, the “She’s Country” singer, wearing a black shirt and hat and blue jeans, 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, and you can be sure 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.”
He then performed Petty’s 1989 hit in tribute to the 58 people killed and more than 500 injured in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Aldean, 40, was onstage in front of 22,000 people at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas strip on Sunday, October 1, when a gunman opened fire just after 10 p.m.
The choice of song was also a poignant tribute to rocker Petty, who died at the age of 66 on Monday, October 2, after suffering a heart attack.
Earlier on Saturday, SNL paid tribute to Petty in its encore timeslot, airing a 1979 episode featuring the “Free Fallin’” singer as the musical guest.
The NBC late-night sketch comedy show was hosted on Saturday by Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot, with Sam Smith as the musical guest.