Like its late night brethren during the week, “Saturday Night Live,” sadly, has been no stranger to trying to figure out how to handle national tragedies.
Saturday night, the venerable sketch show opened on a somber, but ultimately hopeful, note with a surprise appearance from Jason Aldean and his band performing the late Tom Petty’s classic anthem of defiance “I Won’t Back Down.”
The Georgia native was the performer onstage at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas Sunday when a gunman opened fire from the Mandalay Bay Casino and Hotel killing 58 and injuring 489.
Instead of a cold open sketch, Aldean and his band stood on the stage where the monologue is usually performed and Aldean offered these remarks:
“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. So many people are hurting, there are children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends that are all part of our family. So I want to say to them, we hurt for you and we hurt with you. 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 is unbreakable.”
And with that, Aldean lit into the tune, itself serving as a tribute to rock and roll icon Petty, who died on Monday at 66.
Aldean then kicked off the show with the classic “Live from New York it’s Saturday night!” tagline.
Following the shooting, Aldean canceled his three California appearances this weekend including a show Friday night at the Forum. His tour is expected to resume Oct. 12 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In a statement on Instagram, Aldean thanked fans for their support. saying “You guys have no idea how much you have helped get us through this tough time.”