8:35pm PT by Patrick Shanley
Jason Aldean Makes Surprise 'SNL' Appearance, Covers Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down"
Country music artist Jason Aldean opened NBC's Saturday Night Live by addressing the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, during which he was performing at a music festival.
Aldean, who was a surprise appearance given Sam Smith was the slated musical act for the evening's show, shared a message of unity before launching into a rendition of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down," both in honor of his message and the late rock superstar, who died earlier this week.
"When America is at its best, our bond and our spirit, it's unbreakable," Aldean said.
Following the shooting in Las Vegas, Aldean canceled his upcoming tour dates and released a lengthy statement about the tragedy.
"As a result of what happened in Las Vegas this week, we have decided to cancel this coming weekend's shows," Aldean's statement read. "I feel like out of respect for the victims, their families and our fans, it is the right thing to do. It has been an emotional time for everyone involved this week, so we plan to take some time to mourn the ones we have lost and be close with our family and friends. Our plan is to resume the tour the following week in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Our first time back onstage will be a very tough and emotional thing for us, but we will all get through it together and honor the people we lost by doing the only thing we know how to do — play our songs for them. I hope everyone understands why we can't play this weekend and I'm sorry if anyone is disappointed."
Earlier in the day on Saturday, the Florida Gators also paid tribute to Petty as the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium crowd in Gainesville, Florida, sang along to "I Won't Back Down" between the third and fourth quarters of the football game against the LSU Tigers. Petty was born in Gainesville and worked briefly as a groundskeeper for the university.
Watch Aldean's performance below.