Jason Aldean opened the 53rd Academy of Country Music awards with a tribute to the victims of the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting in Las Vegas last October.

Aldean was joined on stage with Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, Maren Morris and Thomas Rhett. He began the tribute, “Tonight we wanted to open the show with something that sums up what it’s like for our country music family to be back in Vegas since Oct. 1,” Aldean said. “We thought about starting with a song, but it’s a lot bigger than a single song. It’s everything you’ll hear tonight. The songs that bring us to our feet, make you want to pull someone close or just live in the moment. Nothing can take away from us.”

 

Lambert continued the tribute, “On this night, our country community, the people here in Las Vegas, and all of you at home are united through the power of music.” Bryan joined in saying, “For those of us who have experienced tragedy and unexpected loss, music helps us remember what really matters in life.”

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“Music does so much more than provide an escape from the pain,” Morris said. “It inspires us, it soothes us and it makes us stronger,” Rhett added. “It gives us a chance to rejoice in what we have and tells us there’s always a reason to carry on.”

Aldean ended the tribute, noting, “With respect to and love to the victims, our friends, our families and fans, we celebrate music tonight.”

The awards show took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. It’s only a few blocks away from where a festival was held where 58 people were killed and 850 were injured by a gunman that opened fire from a neighboring hotel. Aldean was on stage that night and told ET returning to Las Vegas for the awards show felt right. “I think for me to go back in this way, with all those people, is kind of the perfect way to really go back and do it for the first time,” he said.