"We have the power to overcome anything that threatens our way of life or our freedom," says Jason Aldean.
The 2017 CMT Artists of the Year show on Wednesday night took a moment to celebrate "a year of incredible human spirit" following horrific events in Las Vegas, Charlottesville, Puerto Rico, Houston, Florida and California.
Following a performance of "Rise Up" from Andra Day and Little Big Town, honorees Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan opened the show with a speech about the power of music in tragic times.
"Music can be so powerful and we've never needed it more than we do right now," said Bryan. "Music moves us. Music brings us together. And tonight music can be a part of the healing."
"From Las Vegas to Puerto Rico, from Florida and Texas to Charlottesville and California, the entire nation is trying to process these devastating events," continued Stapleton. "But on this night, one that we usually celebrate a year of music, we also want to celebrate a year of incredible human spirit. A spirit that we see in our fans every night."
"The character of country music fans is obvious to us all. We see it all the time," said Brian Kelley of FGL. "When the natural disasters strike, you step up to lend a helping hand and open your hearts and wallets for those in need." Band mate Tyler Hubbard then added: "And during tragedies like Las Vegas, so many people, from concertgoers to first responders who risked their own lives for total strangers, it's in those moments, those acts of courage and heroism, that bring light to even the darkest times."
"So in some small way tonight, we want to thank you for your resolve and perhaps lift your spirits just for a moment," Urban continued. "You guys are going to hear some of your favorite songs and we hope to remind you that everything we go through, we can get through when we stick together."
Aldean closed out the moment, saying, "We've been tested beyond our worst nightmares the past few months. Heartbroken doesn't even begin to explain how some of us feel. But we have proven time and again in this country that we have the power to overcome anything that threatens our way of life or our freedom. We dedicate this night to you and to everyone who's experienced loss or tragedy in the past few months. Like Keith said, we will get through this together."
There were tributes to Las Vegas all night long, as Stapleton dedicated his performance of "Broken Halos" to the victims of the shooting, as well as those affected by the natural disasters. The In Memoriam segment also included the names of all those who died in Las Vegas.
The show ended with a tribute to Tom Petty as well, as Aldean, Urban, Stapleton and Little Big Town covered "I Won't Back Down."