Last night (Nov. 12) in Nashville, some of country music's biggest stars assembled to help raise money for those struck by tragedy this year.
The Country Rising benefit show was originally created to help raise money for those affected by this year's devastating hurricanes. After the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting occurred just days after the concert was announced, organizers rushed to retool the show. Proceeds from ticket sales and concert merchandise were then split between hurricane victims and those affected by the Las Vegas shooting.
Although the events of Route 91 have caused debate and discussion over gun control and other political and social issues, most of the night's performers only lightly touched on the events that inspired the entire benefit show.
The idea of togetherness and family was referred to much more than the tragedies themselves. There were many poignant moments and performances, including a moving rendition of "Broken Halos" from Chris Stapleton. He and his wife Morgane also personally gave $250,000 to the Country Rising fund.
Little Big Town, Keith Urban and Lady Antebellum all provided solid sets of their biggest hits. Dierks Bentley noted that the night marked his first performance since the Las Vegas shooting. Throughout his set, he was clearly affected by the enormity of the moment. Martina McBride and Reba McEntire supplied two short sets packed with inspirational tunes. However, McEntire's choice to thank fans for watching her 2001 sitcom, while singing in front of video scenes from the series, seemed a little out of place.
Garth Brooks was originally scheduled to perform at the event, but pulled out after announcing a run of shows in Spokane, Wash. He greeted concertgoers via a live satellite feed before rolling through his energetic hit "Callin' Baton Rouge." The final artist to perform was George Strait, who shared a short but sweet set that included "The Fireman," "Troubadour" and his trademark hit, "Amarillo By Morning."
But the real highlight of the night came from Jason Aldean, who returned to touring just one week after running off-stage and away from gunfire mid-set at Route 91. He brought everything he had to the stage, shying away from heartbreak tunes, aside from his recent single "Any Ol' Barstool," and going hard on the party anthems. Out of all the performers in the lineup, no one would have faulted Aldean for simply performing a solid set and skipping any commentary. Instead, he reiterated his determination to keep moving forward.
"I know I don't have to tell you guys it's been a rough couple of months for us," Aldean told the crowd. "I spent a lot of time trying to make it in this business doing something that I really enjoy, and I love getting up every day and playing my shows for you guys. And I'll be damned if anybody's ever going to stop me from doing that."