Singer at Las Ve­gas mas­sacre per­forms at BOK cen­ter

Tulsa World - - Front Page - By Jim­mie Tramel

Ja­son Aldean had some­thing to get off his chest dur­ing his Thurs­day night con­cert at the BOK Cen­ter. He isn't go­ing to live in fear, and you shouldn't ei­ther. “What I want to say is th­ese peo­ple are go­ing to con­tinue to try and hold us down and con­tinue to try to do things to us that make us live in fear and be scared and not go out and do what it is we want to do, whether it's go to a con­cert or go to a ball­game or go to the mall or go to a movie. And to those peo­ple that keep try­ing to do that, I say … we don't live in fear.”

The Tulsa show was the coun­try mu­sic artist's first con­cert since more than 50 peo­ple were killed and more than 500 oth­ers in­jured when a gun­man fired into the crowd while Aldean was per­form­ing at an Oct. 1 mu­sic fes­ti­val in Las Ve-

... it has been re­ally cool to see all the love and sup­port that has been go­ing on ... and I just feel like if we can do that on a daily ba­sis, man, the world would be a lot bet­ter place. — Ja­son Aldean, on the days since the Las Ve­gas shoot­ing

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Aldean an­nounced Oct. 3 that he was post­pon­ing his next three tour stops out of re­spect for the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies. He said he would re­sume his tour in Tulsa.

Fans at the BOK Cen­ter braced for an emo­tional re­turn. Aldean tore into his set and played three songs be­fore ad­dress­ing the crowd for about five min­utes.

“As you guys know, man, it has been a tough week and a half for all of us up here on stage, and I want to say thank you guys for be­ing here tonight,” Aldean said. “You guys are go­ing to help us get through this as much as we are go­ing to help you guys.”

Aldean said he was glad to re­sume the tour and, re­fer­ring to the Las Ve­gas tragedy, he said, “It's one of those things I hope you guys don't ever ex­pe­ri­ence any­thing like that. It has re­ally been a tough thing to deal with for all of us up here. I think the one thing that is prob­a­bly go­ing to help us more than any­thing is play­ing for you guys tonight, so thank you so much for com­ing out.”

Aldean said he and his band and crew think ev­ery day about the 58 peo­ple who died in the mas­sacre. He said he didn't want to count the shooter as No. 59. He said thoughts and prayers are with the vic­tims and the fam­i­lies and the peo­ple at the fes­ti­val.

“Some­times this coun­try can be re­ally di­vided — it seems like re­ally di­vided a lot of times, and that's re­ally an un­for­tu­nate thing to see,” he said. “But it has been re­ally cool to see all the love and sup­port that has been go­ing on over the last 10 days or so be­cause of what hap­pened in Las Ve­gas, and I just feel like if we can do that on a daily ba­sis, man, the world would be a lot bet­ter place.”

Aldean said he strug­gled for the last cou­ple of days about how to han­dle the Tulsa show. But he said one thing he has done over his ca­reer is try to give fans a chance to for­get about their problems for a few hours and have fun.

“I want this to not be some­thing that is go­ing to be a downer for the rest of the night,” he said be­fore re­sum­ing the con­cert, adding that he wanted to play for “you guys tonight” the show that the peo­ple in Las Ve­gas didn't get to see.

Among peo­ple at Aldean's wel­come­back show was Min­sheha Fenno, who was in tears af­ter the events of Oct. 1.

She woke up in the mid­dle of the night, and her phone was “blow­ing up” with mes­sages and no­ti­fi­ca­tions about the shoot­ing in Las Ve­gas.

Fenno, who lives in Tulsa, said sev­eral of her friends were at the fes­ti­val, in­clud­ing a close friend who had not marked her­self as “safe” on so­cial me­dia.

Over­come with worry and emo­tion, that's when Fenno started cry­ing. Good news came later.

“She is alive, but she told me she saw peo­ple drop 5 feet away from her,” Fenno said be­fore the con­cert. “For some rea­son, she came out alive. She has been very de­pressed and kind of in the dumps since, so I was go­ing to make this shirt for her, and when this is done I'm go­ing to send it off to her.”

Fenno was wear­ing a shirt (it took her six hours to make) with pho­tos of the Las Ve­gas shoot­ing vic­tims on the back and a “sing for strength” mes­sage on the front.

“Love is go­ing to win ul­ti­mately. Hate won't win,” said Fenno, who won a con­test spon­sored by ra­dio sta­tion KVOO and was re­warded with a chance to meet Aldean af­ter the show.

The goal of the con­test was to cre­ate Tshirts with up­lift­ing mes­sages of sup­port for Ja­son Aldean. Courtney Jef­fer­son of the Meeks Group de­signed a shirt with shoot­ing vic­tims' names on the back. She and Natasha Smith and Kat­era David wore those shirts to the BOK Cen­ter.

Au­tumn Ed­dings of Bixby wore a shirt that said “1,221 miles from here to you, we're pray­ing for y'all like Ok­la­homans do. Stand strong and you'll get through be­cause this fly over state is al­ways with you.”

The song “Fly Over States” was a No. 1 sin­gle for Aldean in 2012.

Courtney Ham­mock, who lives in Tulsa, and Tif­fany Adame, who lives in Cof­feyville, Kansas, were the first peo­ple to line up out­side the down­town Tulsa arena for Aldean's re­turn.

Ham­mock showed up around 10:30 a.m. and was joined by Adame af­ter noon.

“We are here to show (Aldean) that we are sup­port­ing him just like his mu­sic gets us through all kinds of stuff,” Adame said. “We are here for him, even though we are only two peo­ple.”

Ham­mock, who had seen Aldean twice be­fore, and Adame pur­chased tick­ets months be­fore Las Ve­gas. Fans were still buy­ing tick­ets on the day of the show.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view hours be­fore the con­cert be­gan, Adame and Ham­mock said they ex­pected to feel safe at the BOK Cen­ter, which has metal de­tec­tors at en­trances. Ham­mock ex­pected se­cu­rity to be at its high­est for the con­cert.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple be­gan lin­ing up at the BOK's pri­mary en­trance be­fore the doors opened around 6:30 p.m. The scene was mostly busi­ness as usual, with peo­ple chat­ting and mak­ing use of cell­phones while wait­ing to get in­side, ex­cept that news crews (in­clud­ing one from Wi­chita) were roam­ing the premises.

When news broke about the Las Ve­gas shoot­ing, Ham­mock said she im­me­di­ately started pray­ing, “be­cause that's a re­ally sad sit­u­a­tion and no­body should ever have to go through that, and I don't re­ally think any­body has words for it, to be hon­est. The whole thing is sad.”

Asked if she felt for Aldean, she said, “I feel for us as a coun­try. I feel for him be­cause he was on stage; he was per­form­ing; he was do­ing his job. But our coun­try is out of hand, and I feel sad for us as a whole, not for one in­di­vid­ual per­son.”

Aldean pre­dicted in an Oct. 3 state­ment that his first time back on stage would be a tough and emo­tional thing. “But we will all get through it to­gether and honor the peo­ple we lost by do­ing the only thing we know how to do — play our songs for them.”

Also in the Oct. 3 state­ment, he thanked friends and fans for an out­pour­ing of love. “You guys have no idea how much you have helped get us through this tough time.”

Six days af­ter the shoot­ing, Aldean ap­peared on “Satur­day Night Live” and ad­dressed the au­di­ence be­fore play­ing Tom Petty's “Won't Back Down.”

“This week we wit­nessed one of the worst tragedies in Amer­i­can his­tory,” Aldean said. “Like ev­ery­one, I'm strug­gling to un­der­stand what hap­pened that night and how to pick up the pieces and start to heal. So many peo­ple are hurt­ing. There are chil­dren, par­ents, broth­ers, sis­ters, friends. They are all part of our fam­ily. So I want to say to them: `We hurt for you, and we hurt with you.'”

Aldean re­turned to Las Ve­gas on Sun­day to visit with some vic­tims of the shoot­ing. He is sched­uled to per­form Fri­day in Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas, and Satur­day in Evansville, In­di­ana.

SUE OGROCKI/AP

Coun­try star Ja­son Aldean makes a re­turn to the stage at Tulsa's BOK Cen­ter on Thurs­day night af­ter can­cel­ing tour dates fol­low­ing the dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in mod­ern U.S. his­tory in Las Ve­gas.

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