Last Friday, Morgan Wallen made an appearance on Good Morning America, talking to host Michael Strahan about what he’s learned since video of the country singer using a racial slur appeared online in February. A week later, Wallen was onstage at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, surprising an audience gathered to see headliner Luke Bryan. Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard also made cameos.
“So a really good friend of mine is here backstage,” Aldean said, teeing up Wallen’s entrance. “Do I need another tequila shot to get through this?” Bryan asked. At that, Wallen, barrel-chested in a black T-shirt and backwards baseball cap, emerged from the wings with his guitar. “Y’all know Morgan Wallen?” Hubbard asked the crowd, who, judging by videos of the moment lost their collective minds.
Despite Wallen crediting his use of the slur to being on “hour 72 of a 72-hour bender” in an Instagram apology video in February and talking to Strahan on GMA about going to rehab (“Do I have an alcohol problem? Do I have a deeper issue?” he asked), the quartet took a celebratory shot. Then Wallen performed a pair of his radio hits.
“This is a song about staying true to yourself — and that’s been a really hard thing for me to do lately, but here I am,” he said before “More Than My Hometown.” Wallen also performed “Whiskey Glasses.”
Since video of him using the “n-word” temporarily paused his career in February — his record label suspended him; radio stations pulled his songs; awards shows removed him from contention — Wallen has made a few pop-up appearances around Nashville, including a performance at Kid Rock’s downtown honky-tonk. But his time onstage at Bryan’s headlining show marked his first major concert appearance.
“Only in Nashville,” Aldean said after Wallen appeared. Truer words were never spoken.