Aldean, who was performing at the Harvest 91 music festival last Sunday when a gunman opened fire on the crowd of 22,000 people at the outdoor Las Vegas music venue, opened Saturday night’s show with a cover of the late Tom Petty’s hit “I Won’t Back Down.” Petty, a Rock and Roll legend, died Monday at 66.
“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,” Aldean said before his SNL performance. “So many people are hurting.”
“They’re our children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends — they’re all part of our family,” he continued. “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.”
At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 were injured in last Sunday’s rampage, when a lone gunman unleashed a barrage of bullets on the Harvest 91 festival from the 32nd floor of his hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Police found 64-year-old Stephen Paddock dead in his hotel room from a self-inflicted gun shot wound — and later recovered more than a dozen firearms in the room. Police have still not discovered a motive for the shooting.
Aldean has shared numerous tributes to the Las Vegas victims since the shooting, including a heartfelt plea for unity on Instagram. “At the end of the day we arent Democrats or Republicans, Whites or Blacks, Men or Women,” he wrote in the post. “We are all humans and we are all Americans and its time to start acting like it and stand together as ONE! That is the only way we will ever get this Country to be better than it has ever been, but we have a long way to go and we have to start now.”
Watch the full clip of his Saturday Night Live performance above.