Jason Aldean opened Saturday night's (Oct. 7) episode of Saturday Night Live with a cover of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down." The surprise performance, which took place during the "cold open" segment of the sketch comedy show, was both a statement following Sunday's (Oct. 1) mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival and a tribute to Petty, who died on Monday (Oct. 2).

Before his performance, Aldean addressed those in attendance at the Saturday Night Live studio and those watching on TV. In his statement, Aldean spoke to the hurt so many people are feeling following Sunday's tragedy, and to the need to come together to get through it.

"This week, we witnessed one of the worst tragedies in American history. Like everyone, I’m struggling to understand what happened that night, how to pick up the pieces and start to heal," Aldean said (quote via TheWrap.com). "So many people are hurting. There are children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, and they are all part of our family. So I want to say to them: We hurt for you, and we hurt with you. You can be sure that we are going to walk through these tough times together, every step of the way. Because when America is at its best, our bond and our spirit are unbreakable.”

Country Stars Respond Following Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting

Aldean was onstage on Sunday night when the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting -- which left more than 50 people dead and more than 500 people injured -- began. His pregnant wife, Brittany, was at the festival with him; fortunately, she, Aldean and their crew were unharmed.

“My heart aches for the victims and their families of this senseless act,” Aldean said in a statement in the days after the tragedy. “I am so sorry for the hurt and pain everyone is feeling right now, and there are no words I can say to to take that pain away. Just know u all are in my heart and my prayers as we all go through this together.”

Aldean canceled three tour dates -- scheduled for Oct. 6, 7 and 8 -- following the shooting, “out of respect for the victims, their families and our fans.” He will resume his tour on Oct. 12.

Remembering the Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting Victims