The country music community, returning to Las Vegas six months after a massive shooting in the city, remembered the victims not in song, but with words to open the Academy of Country Music Awards.
Miranda Lambert said the world can be “united through the healing power of music,” while Luke Bryan said “music helps us remember what really matters in life.”
At the MGM Grand Garden on Sunday, Maren Morris said music “makes us stronger” and Thomas Rhett said music gives us “a chance to rejoice.” Jason Aldean closed the emotional moment, saying in respect to the victims and music fans, “we celebrate the music tonight. America, this is your ACM Awards.”
The 2018 awards show, airing on CBS, comes six months after a lone gunman killed 58 people at a country music festival in Sin City in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The ACMs, however, is typically known as the genre’s biggest party of the year.
Aldean, who was onstage when the shooting started at the Route 91 Harvest Festival last October, will perform Sunday. Reba McEntire will also perform and is hosting the show, a year after Bryan and Dierks Bentley hosted.
“It takes one woman to do the job of two men,” she said, earning a rousing applause.
Other performers include Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Shelton, Keith Urban, Lambert, Little Big Town, Rhett and Morris.
Carrie Underwood, who will perform her new song “Cry Pretty,” will give her first television appearance after injuring her face and wrist last year due to a fall at her home.
Pop stars will also invade the country music show: Kelly Clarkson, Julia Michaels and Bebe Rexha will also hit the stage.
Stapleton has 8 nominations
Chris Stapleton, who released two top-selling albums last year, is the top nominee with eight. This year marks his first nomination for entertainer of the year, where he will battle Garth Brooks, Urban, Bryan and Aldean, who has won the honor the last two years.
Rhett earned six nominations, Urban and songwriter-producer Shane McAnally are up for five awards, and Lambert and Morris will each compete for four honors.
Lambert is currently tied with Brooks and Dunn as artists with the most awards in ACM history with 29 wins each. She is the current record holder for most consecutive wins for female vocalist of the year; this year her competition in the category includes Underwood, McEntire, Morris and Kelsea Ballerini.
Little Big Town, Midland and Sam Hunt, whose “Body Like a Back Road” is the longest-running No. 1 song of all-time on Billboard’s Hot country songs chart, all have three nominations each. “Body Like a Back Road” is nominated for song of the year and single record of the year.
Other performers include Dierks Bentley, Ballerini, Lauren Alaina, Kane Brown, Dan + Shay, Chris Janson, Midland, Jon Pardi, Darius Rucker, Brett Young and Chris Young. Ashton Kutcher, Cam, Drew Brees and Eve will present awards.