Jason Aldean was on-stage in Las Vegas when a madman open-fired on the Route 91 Harvest Festival, killing 59 and wounding over 500. Tonight, he returned to tribute the victims of the massacre by playing the Tom Petty classic “I Won’t Back Down.” The segment replaced the traditional SNL cold open, which has featured Donald Trump for nearly every episode over the last year.
The segment was unexpected and was a somber reminder that the tragedy in Las Vegas is affecting everything around us. The national dialogue has shifted to a re-heated discussion on gun control, actual changes (albeit small) may stop an easy fix for semi-automatic weapons into automatics, and a discussion on actual legislation rather than thoughts and prayers is becoming realistic.
It’s also a reminder that SNL is willing to step away from the satire for a moment to address a tragedy that affected countless lives. If Aldean’s intro was disruptive or even jarring, it worked. We didn’t get the traditional opening, the audience had a touching moment that should hopefully bring a frustrated and divided country together, if only for tonight.
Credit Tom Petty for writing a song that’s been incredibly poignant for decades, and even more so in the week of his death.