The first major country music gathering in Las Vegas since the massacre during October’s Route 91 festival was expected to spark plenty of emotional pressure points, and it did.
Sunday’s 53rd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, airing live from the MGM Grand a couple of blocks from where 58 people died and hundreds were severely injured six months ago, opened with spoken words from a pack of artists including Macon’s Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan.
“For those of us who have experienced tragedy and unexpected loss, music helps us remember what really matters in life,” Bryan said.
“Music does so much more than provide an escape from the pain. It inspires us, it soothes us and it makes us stronger,” added Maren Morris.
The show’s biggest award, Entertainer of the Year, was presented to Aldean for the third consecutive year.
The country star, who was on stage at Route 91 when the shooting rampage began, recalled the tragedy in his acceptance speech.
“It’s been a rough year, and I want to say thanks to everybody who reached out to us, that showed us love and support over the last six months,” he said. “It meant the world to us. To my Route 91 people – you guys are in our hearts, always, and we love Las Vegas. Vegas strong, baby.”