2017 CMT performers honor Las Vegas shooting victims and heroes

Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan were the honorees at this year’s CMT Artists of the Year special, which aired live from Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Wednesday.

The focus of the show was less awards and more “hope and healing,” following the mass shooting in Las Vegas and the recent natural disasters in Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico and California.

R&B singer Andra Day, joined by Little Big Town, opened the program with a powerful performance of Day’s hit “Rise Up.” The five honorees then took the stage to explain that the show was a tribute to the victims and expression of gratitude to the first responders.

“Music can be so powerful, and we have never needed it more than we do right now,” said six-time honoree Bryan. “We hope music can be a part of the healing.”

Stapleton chimed in, “The entire nation is trying to process these devastating events. On this night, one that we usually celebrate a year of music, we also want to celebrate a year of incredible human spirit.”

Urban added, “In some small way tonight, we want to thank you for your resolve and perhaps lift your spirits. We hope to remind you that everything we go though, we can get through when we stick together.”

Aldean, who was onstage when the gunman opened fire, noted, “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 … we will get through this together.”

Little Big Town, Danielle Bradbery and Lee Ann Womack then joined Day and rapper Common for a moving rendition of “Stand Up for Something.”

Stapleton, introduced by the Osborne Brothers, was later joined by his wife Morgane for “Broken Halos,” dedicating the song to victims of the Las Vegas shooting and all Americans suffering in the wake of the country’s recent natural disasters.

In keeping with the evening’s theme of “hope and healing,” the “In Memoriam” segment included the names of all the Las Vegas shooting victims.

Vince Gill, introducing Keith Urban, likened him to “a little brother,” adding, “and who wouldn’t want Keith Urban as your little brother.” Urban then performed “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” for his wife, Nicole Kidman, ending by saying, “I love you baby.”

Aldean, accepting his sixth CMT Artist of the Year title, was the final honoree of the night. He was introduced by Bryan, who noted, “It could have been any one of us on that stage in Las Vegas.”

He added, “Jason Aldean has responded with dignity, care, respect and, in some ways, defiance.”

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