Jason Aldean performed his first full headlining concert in Las Vegas in more than two years on Friday, kicking off his Ride All Night Vegas three-show residency at the Park MGM. The country star was onstage at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in October 2017 when a gunman opened fire on the crowd.
Aldean addressed survivors of the attack shortly into his set.
“Tonight’s a really special night for us. We got a lot of people in the crowd who are family to us, so welcome everyone from Route 91. We’re glad to see you guys out,” he said. “It’s good to be back here in Las Vegas. It’s our first show back and make no mistake about it tonight, we came back to blow it out for you guys tonight…Let’s finish what we started, what y’all think?”
Aldean’s concerts are typically workingman in nature: he’s there to do his job of entertaining and is focused on the task at hand. But this performance couldn’t help but be emotional. During “Any Ol’ Barstool,” off his 2016 release They Don’t Know, a man in a wheelchair wearing a Route 91 shirt and holding an American flag was lifted high above the audience to cheers. Aldean noticed, and pointed at him: “My man,” he said.
The singer, who released his new album 9 last month, ended the show with “Before She Says Baby,” the song he was performing at Route 91 when the shooting began. “Last time we were starting this song here, we got a little interrupted, so let’s finish it,” he said defiantly. He concluded with a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” which he played on Saturday Night Live less than a week after Route 91.
Aldean continues his mini-residency on Saturday with the second of his three shows. He’ll launch his winter We Back Tour in January.
Fifty-eight people were killed in the Route 91 Harvest Festival attack; another fan died earlier this year from her injuries, bringing the total to 59. It stands as the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
(Reporting by Mark Gray)