“I'm a Georgia girl, but I've been an honorary Okie for the last 12 years. And I'm honored to be a part of this community. And we're so happy that we're here to have fun and start that healing process. You guys are amazing and you show the world how resilient that you are. God bless you. God bless you, Oklahoma,” Yearwood said before performing her emotional smash “How Do I Live” as a tribute to her adopted home state.
Carrie Underwood, who hails from Checotah, even beamed in via satellite from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn., to dedicate her hit ballads “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and “See You Again” to her native state.
Bethel Acres native Wade Hayes made a special appearance before Keith's set to play one song.
For Keith, Saturday's cause was particularly personal: His hometown of Moore was devastated by the May 20 EF5 tornado that killed 24 people and destroyed homes, businesses and schools.
“Cameras just can't quite capture ... the magnitude of how violent they are,” he said. “It's probably exactly what a war zone looks like.”
Dunn said he and his wife got too close for comfort to the May 19 Shawnee tornado while traveling on his tour bus from their home in Santa Fe, N.M., to Nashville, and then stopped overnight only to awaken to ominous skies and TV images of the Moore twister.
“We took off and started running east toward Nashville and ran parallel to the storm most of the way home and watched everything on CNN and the Weather Channel on the way in,” said Dunn, who regards Oklahoma “as much home to me as anyplace.” “I've been around them before but that's as close as I've come to anything that destructive and that big.”
Pat Petrossian, a die-hard 20-year fan of Keith and Dunn, came all the way from Carlsbad, Calif., to watch two of her favorite stars play as well as to lend her support to Oklahoma.
“I just wanted to come and see the devastation and then enjoy the concert and everyone coming together,” said Petrossian, 68, who estimated she has seen Keith in concert more than 100 times all over the country, including in the Oklahoma City area, where he hasn't played in almost a decade. “This has absolutely been wonderful. ... I think it's really good for the people of Oklahoma. I know everyone here knows who he is but I think it's good for them to see him as an entertainer.”
Watching from the front row as Nelson crooned “Good Hearted Woman,” Calvin Schwab, 22, of Norman said he weathered a scary close call May 19 when the tornado that went on to hit Shawnee originated about a mile from his house near Lake Thunderbird.
“This is freaking great. I love it,” he said of the star-studded show. “I'm glad I've had the opportunity to sit right here and see it.”
Backstage, Brooks said the show is benefiting Oklahoma tornado victims statewide.
“I think we're here to support human beings 'cause we can't forget about Shawnee, can't forget about El Reno, all those towns around here where we grew up,” said Brooks, who grew up in Yukon. “Everyone outside of Oklahoma, I'd like them to know that this is where resilience lives.”