Country music awards honor shooting victims but leave politics out

The 2018 Country Music Association Awards on Tuesday paid sober tribute to the dozen people killed during a California shooting at a country music bar last week.

Country mega-star Garth Brooks kicked off the 52nd annual awards ceremony by dedicating it to those fatally shot during the attack in Thousand Oaks, California.

“On behalf of our country music community, I want to say that tonight’s show is lovingly dedicated to the 12 individuals who we lost far too soon just a week ago tonight,” Brooks said.

“Tonight, let’s celebrate their lives. Let the music unite us with love in their enduring memory,” he said before leading the audience of the Nashville, Tennessee ceremony in a moment of silence.

Singer Luke Bryan then took the stage and told the audience: “Let’s do what we do and let’s be proud of what makes us country tonight,” before giving an energetic performance of his current single “What Makes You Country.”

Last week’s mass shooting involving country music fans came just one year after a gunman rained bullets on a Las Vegas country music festival, killing 58 people in one of the deadliest gun massacres in modern US history.

Several survivors of last year’s tragedy were also in the California bar.

Country music is often associated with conservative-leaning Americans and guns are often a theme of its songs.

The 2017 edition of the awards — which fell weeks after the Vegas shooting — saw the CMAs come under fire for urging reporters covering the show to steer clear of political topics, including gun rights.

Following the moment of silence this year the evening took on a more jovial tone, with Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood — who hosted the evening for the 11th consecutive year — cracking jokes on lighthearted topics including Lady Gaga and Underwood’s pregnancy.

Keith Urban, who is married to Hollywood superstar Nicole Kidman, nabbed the top Entertainer of the Year prize at the show, which is one of two major award ceremonies in the industry.

Singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton picked up three awards including Male Vocalist of the Year and Single of the Year, which he dedicated to the California shooting victims.

Underwood, who performed “Love Wins” in a sapphire blue cape and gown that showed off her baby bump, took home her fifth prize for Female Vocalist of the Year.

And the Brothers Osborne snagged their third consecutive trophy for Vocal Duo of the Year — and delivered the sole political one-liner.

“I can’t believe we keep wining this. If this was in Florida, there’d definitely be a recount,” quipped TJ Osborne, referring to a tense, razor-thin US senate race that has drawn the ire of President Donald Trump.

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