Yes, Garth Brooks won entertainer of the year and Chris Stapleton picked up two honors, including album of the year.
But the moments that truly dominated the 2017 Country Music Association Awards had less to do with winning, and more about a community banding together to heal.
Here’s a look at some of the top moments at the awards show, which aired live Wednesday night from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee:
Honoring the Las Vegas victims
The CMA Awards came a month after 58 people were killed at a country music festival in Las Vegas. Nearly 500 were injured.
The show, the most prestigious gathering for the country music genre each year, honored those who died with a beautiful, exceptional and powerful performance by Carrie Underwood, who was so emotional she couldn’t even finish singing the words to “Softly and Tenderly.”
Underwood was performing during the “In Memoriam” section of the show, which began with photos of country singers and members of the community who passed away in the last year. Then photos of the 58 people who died on Oct. 1 were on display in the background, honoring their lives. The segment earned the night’s loudest applause.
Underwood and co-host Brad Paisley – who both write material for the awards show – used their opening segment to poke fun at President Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, their fellow country singers and, surprisingly, the Country Music Association.
The hosts came down on the organization for sending restrictions to press, barring them from asking singers on the red carpet about politics or guns. The restriction was rescinded following backlash from country singers and journalists.
Paisley and Underwood also used their monologue to get serious: They honored the victims of the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting and those affected by hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
“The best way to honor our fans is to play our music loud and proud,” said Paisley. “Our music lifts people up.”
The CMA Awards was marked by messages of unity and harmony as the country music community and others spotlighted the need to stick together during trying times.
Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman quoted Maya Angelou, Miranda Lambert said this was the most unified CMA Awards she’s been to and Tyler Perry said now is the time we have to all “find some common ground.”
“We are a family,” Garth Brooks said after winning entertainer of the year.
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