After being witness to nearly six hundred fans being gunned down (59 fatally) right in front of him while he performed at Las Vegas’ Route 91 Harvest country music festival last Sunday, Georgia-born singer Jason Aldean opened last night’s Saturday Night Live. Bumping what’s become the standard SNL-Alec Baldwin cold open Donald Trump-bashing slot, the Gal Gadot-hosted episode began with the somber Aldean and his band on Studio 8H’s silent home base, as the singer addressed the studio and home audience and the survivors of yet another American mass shooting.
Calling the horrifying act of gun violence—this one perpetrated by one Stephen Paddock—“one of the worst tragedies in American history,” Aldean gave a short but sincere call for unity in the face of these “tough times.” (Perhaps referring to the fact that there’s been at least one mass shooting almost every single day in America this year.) And while Aldean, who was actually onstage when that murderous asshole started killing people, hasn’t come out and called for anything specific to be done about America’s deadly gun fetish like another performer who was at the festival, his all-weather wish for Americans to look out for each other was at least a well-intentioned statement from a guy who’s just seen some truly terrible things first-hand. Launching into a solid, countrified cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” Aldean brought the viewing audience’s other big (although less catastrophically violent) sorrow of the week into the gesture, playing the late Petty’s ode to, well, not backing down, even in the face of yet another instance of America’s gun obsession claiming scores of innocent lives. And if Aldean never mentioned the word “gun” (let alone follow it with “control”), his remarks are already more eloquent than any Donald Trump has offered.