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SNL: Jason Aldean honored the Las Vegas shooting victims during the show’s cold open

The singer, who was performing when shooting broke out in Las Vegas, covered a Tom Petty classic.

Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

After a week that saw more than 50 people killed in Las Vegas in a gun massacre, Saturday Night Live dropped its traditional cold open and instead had country singer Jason Aldean address the audience before performing a Tom Petty classic, renowned for its expression of indomitable, unwavering spirit.

“When America is at its best, our bond, and its spirit — it’s unbreakable,” Aldean said, adding, “We hurt for you, and we hurt with you."

Aldean’s appearance on SNL is notable because he was performing at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas when the mass shooting took place. Many of the people at the festival and people who were killed in the shooting on Sunday night were there to see Aldean, who was one of the event’s headliners.

Aldean then performed a rendition of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” Petty died this week after suffering cardiac arrest. He left behind a four-decade legacy of hits, including “I Won’t Back Down.”

According to Petty, the song was written after an arsonist attempted to burn down his house in 1987, but it has since become an anthem of resilience and perseverance against struggle. Thus, it’s fitting that in the wake of a week of terror and loss, Aldean opened the show with a moving version of the classic song.

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