I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Eleven days the deadliest mass shooting in American history, eleven days of mourning and confusion, and there I was, standing outside the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa with a ticket to see Jason Aldean. I thought how I felt would be common, but I was incredibly wrong. It seemed that I was the only person who wasn’t there just to cut loose, drink a few beers, forget about my daily problems for a moment, and refuse to let terrorists keep me from living.
“We’re gonna give you the show the people in Las Vegas came to see and didn’t get to,” Jason Aldean said once he took the stage. And that’s exactly what he did.
Every person I spoke to – the security guard, the college student sitting next to me, the woman at the concessions stand – thought I was crazy for thinking anything should be different about this show. I had imagined a somber tone, serious speeches, and quiet covers of emotional songs the whole night. Maybe Kane Brown would cry. Maybe Chris Young would cover “Go Rest High On That Mountain.”
But neither of the openers mentioned Las Vegas. All Chris Young said in regard to the shooting was, “Music heals.” The real work was left to Aldean who was onstage at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival when a gunman opened fire on the crowd.
“We didn’t know how this was going to go,” Aldean said after he took the stage. “[We didn’t know] how we were gonna act, how you guys were going to react to us– but the one thing I’ve tried to do for the last thirteen years or so was go out every night and make sure the people who came out to the shows got to forget about their daily problems…I want this to be something that’s not going to be a downer for the rest of the night. I want to play the show for you guys the people in Las Vegas came to see and didn’t get a chance to. So, I guess what I’m saying is let’s turn this shit up and let’s get it going!”
Everything after that was business as usual. Aldean didn’t stop to reflect. The set list didn’t change. Even when he came to “When She Says Baby”, the song he was playing when the gunman opened fire, he did not flinch but went full throttle into the song.
Before launching into “Dirt Road Anthem” Aldean said, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last ten days it’s that life is short, so play hard.”
The night was a statement to both the country music industry and it’s fans: we will never forget, never give up, and never let terrorists dictate the way we live. And, for the first time since the shooting, I stopped being nervous.