The 51st Annual Country Music Association awards kicked off on a mournful note Wednesday night (Nov. 8), with Eric Church taking the stage to perform a solo, a capella version of the hymn “Amazing Grace.”
The somber start was expected, given the numerous tragedies that have struck America in recent months — none hitting the country world more closely than the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in October.
But after one verse of “Amazing Grace,” Church gave way to Darius Rucker and Keith Urban, taking center stage behind him to perform an uplifting version of the mid-’90s Hootie and the Blowfish smash “Hold My Hand.” Those two were soon joined by Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire and many of country’s other best and brightest stars, for a righteous, uplifting run through the country-rock classic.
“The best way to honor our fans is to play our music, loud and proud,” co-host Brad Paisley commented after the performance. “This year’s show is dedicated to all those we’ve lost and all those who are still healing.”
Watch performance of the video below.