Sunday night’s ACM Awards marked country music’s major return to Las Vegas six months after a lone gunman killed 58 people at a country music festival in Sin City in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Jason Aldean, the singer who was onstage when the gunshots started, was joined by a few of his fellow artists to explain that while the show will pay tribute to the victims, it will focus on the unifying and healing power of music.
After the short intro, host Reba McEntire quickly fired up the crowd with a slew of jokes that left no artist safe from her tongue-and-cheek opening.
Commenting on the previous year’s hosts, Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley, McEntire quipped, “I guess they just found out it only takes one woman to do the job of two men.”
The “Fancy” singer also pointed out that only men are nominated for Entertainer of the Year.
“Five men no women…looks like single’s night at the Holiday Inn,” she told a cheering crowd.
Performers for the night include Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Florida Georgia Line, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Thomas Rhett, and Maren Morris.
Carrie Underwood, who will perform her new song “Cry Pretty,” will give her first television appearance after injuring her face and wrist last year due to a fall at her home.
Pop stars will also invade the country music show: Kelly Clarkson, Julia Michaels and Bebe Rexha will also hit the stage.
Chris Stapleton, who released two top-selling albums last year, is the top nominee with eight. This year marks his first nomination for entertainer of the year, where he will battle Garth Brooks, Urban, Bryan and Aldean, who has won the honor the last two years.
Rhett earned six nominations, Urban and songwriter-producer Shane McAnally are up for five awards, and Lambert and Morris will each compete for four honors.
Lambert is currently tied with Brooks and Dunn as artists with the most awards in ACM history with 29 wins each. She is the current record holder for most consecutive wins for female vocalist of the year; this year her competition in the category includes Underwood, McEntire, Morris and Kelsea Ballerini.
Little Big Town, Midland and Sam Hunt, whose “Body Like a Back Road” is the longest-running No. 1 song of all-time on Billboard’s Hot country songs chart, all have three nominations each. “Body Like a Back Road” is nominated for song of the year and single record of the year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.