Almost exactly one year ago, on October 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest music festival crowd in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring 851 — the deadliest mass shooting by an individual ever in the U.S. Jason Aldean, who was onstage at the country concert when gunshots broke out, was back in Vegas on Friday night (Sept. 21) to perform at the iHeartRadio Music Festival and to pay his respects to the victims and first responders on the scene that day.
Before his set, Aldean joined Nashville radio host Bobby Bones to welcome dozens of Vegas police officers, firefighters and EMTs to the stage, and the T-Mobile Arena crowd erupted in applause and cheers for the hometown heroes. One audience member even started a “USA!” chant that reverberated through the crowd up to the stage.
It was an emotional moment, one that extended backstage when Aldean was able to meet Route 91 survivor Melissa Wall.
— iHeartRadio Festival (@iHeartFestival) September 22, 2018
Before the tribute, Aldean spoke with reporters backstage and expressed mixed emotions about being back one year later.
“Being back in Vegas this close to the anniversary of it is, at times, a little weird,” Aldean admitted to reporters backstage earlier in the night. “In another sense, it’s nice to be back. This is really our first performance we’ve had here since then. Tonight is going to be another step in getting through all that stuff.”
While this is Aldean’s first proper concert in Vegas since October 2017, he did return to the desert in April for the 2018 Academy of Country Music Awards.
During his set, Aldean kept things in party mode to celebrate the city and its #VegasStrong mantra, performing upbeat hits like “She’s Country” and “Dirt Road Anthem.”