Keith Urban knows how to kick off a show. The country music superstar served as host of the 2020 ACM Awards on Wednesday, and he opened the remote awards ceremony with a hopeful, emotional message about the healing power of music.
After an opening music number featuring a medley of live performances from Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett and Carrie Underwood -- who sang from a number of different venues across Nashville -- Urban took the stage at the empty Grand Ole Opry to introduce the unique format of the night's big show.
"Due to the COVID world that we are living in right now, we won't have an audience here, but we have every one of you watching, wherever you are watching from right now, so thank you so much every one of you," Urban said.
He also celebrated the return of the ACM Awards to Nashville, "The home of country music," after being held in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for decades.
"Part of being home is celebrating three iconic locations where it all began for many of us. Tonight our show is going to come from the historic Ryman Auditorium, the legendary Bluebird Cafe and, of course, right here at this country music treasure."
Urban also addressed the many difficulties the world is facing, from "horrific wildfires" on the west coast to the threat of devastating hurricanes off the gulf coast.
"We want to send our love, thoughts and our prayers out to everyone of you affected right now," Urban shared. "And of course we are still in the midst of trying to fight two pandemics: COVID-19 and social injustice. Far too many lives have been lost to both."
"The example set by our essential workers, our first responders, along with the voices crying out for equality in all walks of life, have echoed around the world and right here in our country community," Urban continued. "They inspire us to come together, and work together, to address these challenges."
"Country music is many things to many people, but at its center, at its core, at its heart, I believe it's about community," he added. "The songs, the stories, and the artists telling them bring us healing, comfort and they bring hope. We sure could use some of that right about now."
ET's Kevin Frazier spoke with the 52-year-old singer ahead of his hosting gig, and he revealed what went into preparing for the unique event.
"It'll be a first on every level. I've never hosted before," Urban says. "We were supposed to be in Vegas in April and instead we will be in Nashville in September, but first and foremost I'm glad we're doing it. I'm glad the ACMs are going ahead. It's gonna be a really, really good... We're gonna really bring the best in Nashville out to everybody."
Check out the video below to hear more from this year's ACM Awards host.