Jason Aldean has finally finished what he started.
The country superstar returned to Las Vegas on Friday night to perform a concert for the first time since Oct. 1, 2017, in which 58 people were killed and over 800 injured after a gunman opened fire on the crowd from his 32nd floor hotel suite at an adjacent hotel. A 59th person died from her injuries last month.
It remains the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.
Aldean was on stage and had played only a few songs into his presumptive 90-minute set during the Route 91 Harvest Festival when the shooting began, prompting him and his band to take cover and flee, much like the 22,000 people in attendance that evening.
That night has forever linked Aldean to the city, and while he has been back in Sin City for awards shows, hospital visitations and the iHeartRadio Music festival, he had not performed a full concert in Vegas since that fateful fall evening… that is, until Friday.
“Tonight’s a really special night for us. We got a lot of people in the crowd who are family to us, so welcome everyone from Route 91,” he said. “We’re glad to see you guys out. It’s good to be back here in Las Vegas. It’s our first show back and make no mistake about it tonight, we came back to blow it out for you guys tonight. Let’s finish what we started, what y’all think!”
Attendees and first responders from that deadly night attended Friday’s show, many of whom wore Route 91 T-shirts. Clearly, there was catharsis in seeing Aldean again, as tears were about as prevalent as an Aldean hit song, of which there are plenty of.
Aldean didn’t harp on that fateful evening, but it certainly hung over the air, especially when a man in a wheelchair wearing a Route 91 T-shirt was hoisted over the crowd waving an American flag during “Any Ol’ Barstool.” The man, presumably a victim from that night, sang loudly as Aldean pointed at him. “My man,” Aldean said afterward.
The concert was particularly poignant for many fans when Aldean began singing “When She Says Baby,” as that was the song he was singing when the first of what would be over 1,000 bullets started flying.
“Last time we were starting this song here, we got a little interrupted,” he said on Friday, “So let’s finish it.”
He ended the concert with a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” which he sang on Saturday Night Live the weekend after the shooting.
Aldean certainly knew the three concerts at Park Theater would carry much greater meaning than others during his Ride All Night tour. When the shows were announced in August, he said on Instagram, “These shows are gonna be pretty special for lots of reasons. Can’t wait to see you guys there!” He also used the hashtag “Vegas Strong,” which continues to be a rallying cry for a city that still grapples with the effects of that evening.
On Dec. 3, Aldean’s wife, Brittany, gave a subtle nod to Vegas on Instagram, posting a photo of Aldean reading the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper. The cover of the life section was a picture of Aldean next to the words “Rousing Return.”
For Vegas, it’s fitting that Aldean’s newest single is called “We Back.”
Finally, after two years, he is.