The singer, 34, took the stage at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to sing a somber rendition of the traditional hymn “Softly and Tenderly,” paying tribute to family members the country music community lost in 2017, including Troy Gentry, Glen Campbell and Don Williams.
Then, toward the end of the performance, the faces of the 58 victims who were killed in the mass shooting at the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Festival flashed across the screen in the venue as Underwood became emotional and tearfully wrapped the song.
In addition to performing, Underwood was nominated for female vocalist of the years and, for the tenth year, cohosted the show with Brad Paisley. Underwood and Paisley, 45, honored the Las Vegas victims earlier in the show.
“This has been a year marked by tragedy, impacting countless lives, including so many in our country music family. So tonight, we’re going to do what families do: come together, pray together, cry together, and sing together, too,” Underwood said during their monologue.
Paisley added: “The way we see it, the best way to honor our fans is to play our music — loud and proud. Our music lifts people up and that’s what we’re here to do tonight. So this year’s show is dedicated to all of those we’ve lost and to all of those who are still healing. We love you and we will never forget you.”
The 51st CMAs broadcast live from Nashville Wednesday on ABC.