So after all that, “Las Vegas” were the very first words spoken on the CMA Awards Wednesday night.
“Las Vegas, Charlottesville, New York, Sutherland Springs, historic storms in Texas, Puerto Rico and Florida, and the list goes on and on,” said co-host Carrie Underwood. “This has been a year marked by tragedy impacting countless lives including so many in our country music family. So we’re going to do what families do: Come together, pray together, cry together and sing together, too.”
And here came the moment of the pivot, the one where the show started giving itself permission to move on to the standard business of giving out awards to Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum and the like.
“Look,” said co-host Brad Paisley, “the way we see it, the best way to honor our fans is to play our music loud and proud. Our music lifts people up and that’s what we’re here to do tonight. So this year’s show is dedicated to all those we’ve lost and all those that are still healing.”
You might have liked something more forceful as an acknowledgment of the most deadly mass shooting in modern U.S. history, just over a month ago at a Vegas country music festival while Nashville superstar Jason Aldean was performing. You might have liked to see Aldean himself, who showed up on “Saturday Night Live” to sing Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” after the Oct. 1 killings, but did not perform at the CMAs.
And perhaps even one of the artists accepting awards could have said something more direct. Instead, the few statements that were made were on the order of Miranda Lambert’s: heartfelt, for sure, but also oblique.
“There’s a family in this room tonight,” said the female vocalist of the year winner. “I feel like we’ve banded together more than we ever have been, and I feel like country music is winning right now.”
This was a moment for boldness, and Nashville, in that middle-of-the-road, locked-down and ultimately…