Jason Aldean opens SNL with tribute to Las Vegas victims, Tom Petty

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Saturday Night Live opened its second episode of the new season by paying tribute to the victims of last weekend’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, as well as the late music legend Tom Petty.

Jason Aldean was performing at the Route 91 Harvest Festival across the Las Vegas strip from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino when a gunman opened fire from the hotel and shot more than 500 in attendance, killing at least 58. Aldean was front-and-center at the episode’s beginning, in lieu of the typical cold open. He spoke directly to the camera with a band behind him, addressing the tragedy.

“Like everyone, I’m struggling to understand what happened that night, and how to pick up the pieces and start to heal,” he said. “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.”

Aldean also made a call for the country to come together and show collective resolve: “When America is at its best, our bond and our spirit, it’s unbreakable.”

The country artist then turned to a performance of “I Won’t Back Down,” one of the most beloved hits of Tom Petty, who died Monday after suffering cardiac arrest, with the lyrics clearly doubling as a tribute to the singer and to the victims of Sunday’s attack in Las Vegas.

Aldean previously released a statement on the Las Vegas shooting, saying “this world is becoming the kind of place that I am scared to raise my children in.”

The last time the venerable sketch series did not open with a comedic cold open was last November after Donald Trump’s upset victory in the 2016 presidential election when Kate McKinnon’s performed a somber rendition of “Hallelujah” while in character as Hillary Clinton. That performance served as both a memorial for songwriter Leonard Cohen, who died that week, and a tribute to Clinton.

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