Country star Jason Aldean was in Las Vegas to close out the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival on Sunday. It’s a town that had been good to him—he was crowned “entertainer of the year” in Vegas during the Academy of Country Music Awards in April—and before going onstage he sat down with promoters for a Facebook Live interview.
“The initial response you get from the crowd when you hit the stage, I mean to me that’s what sort of lights the fire for the night,” Aldean said on Facebook Live.
During his performance Sunday night, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock shot seemingly indiscriminately at Aldean’s crowd, killing 59 and injuring 527 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Paddock was perched in his Mandalay Bay hotel room, where he later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Before the violence and chaos, an exuberant Aldean felt an obligation to his audience.
“You want to go out and prove to everybody why you’re that guy,” Aldean said, referencing his “entertainer of the year” crown. “For me, it was important to go out and prove to people why we had won and let them see that we were worthy.”
The setting didn’t hurt either, Aldean said. The Macon, Georgia, native used “throw down” in reference to partying multiple times in the interview, with a gracious, optimistic tone. The country star was on-hand to sing for the people, sure, but also to let the good times roll.
“The reason you come to Vegas is to have a good time, throw down, and party a little bit so that’s why we’re here,” Aldean said. “We’re looking forward to it being a good night.”
Tragedy would unfold as he played. The 40-year-old ran offstage in a storm of bullets. He later called the scene “beyond horrific” in an Instagram post.
Live with Jason Aldean at the Route 91 Harvest Festival
Posted by People Country on Sunday, October 1, 2017
View this post on Instagram
Tonight has been beyond horrific. I still dont know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that Me and my Crew are safe. My Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night. #heartbroken #stopthehate
The interview paints a frontman humbled and in awe of his audience. Here’s hoping he can help heal the country music community onstage as soon as possible.
“We try to give everybody what they paid for,” Aldean said. “They may only catch one show a year and it may be this one so you want to make sure that every show you try to go out and turn it up a notch and give it everything you got.”
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect the latest death toll in the Las Vegas shooting.
H/T Perez Hilton