For 18 thousand Eric Church fans, a three-and-a-half hour roof-raising sold out set began with a tribute to Leonard Cohen and ended with a testimony to Church’s loyalty to one of the very cities he claims to have cut his teeth, Omaha. Throughout the evening, old Omaha bars and venues came up in the artist’s songs and conversation to those in his congregation. Tailor-fit to pay homage to Omaha, Church covered Bob Segar’s classic, “Turn the Page”:
On a long and lonesome highway
East of Omaha
You can listen to the engine
Moanin’ out his one note song
The 39-year-old singer promises every show is different, and this one was certainly a leap above his tour-launching performance last January in Lincoln. Songs from his debut chart-topper Sinners Like Me to his 2015 release, Mr. Misunderstood, Church gave the audience a stream of hits, covers and unreleased tracks. “I’ll shake your hand and look you in the eye,” the singer belted out as he raised his famous aviators from his eyes and continued, “How About You?” The crowd roared. “I like my country rockin’ how ‘bout you, Omaha?” More than a decade on the road has clearly given this man some experience with crowd interaction.
Church concluded his “Holdin’ My Own” Omaha show with backup vocalist Joanna Cotten, him and his guitar. “That’s Damn Rock & Roll”, “Round Here Buzz”, and “Kill A Word”, the latter two are a couple of the Chief’s most recent chart-climbers and also seemed to be fan favorites.
More than an entertainer, Church reminds country today that old school Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash bad boy charm is alive and welcome in an era of pop country. Entertaining is more than about selling merch and show tickets, which he feverishly declares war on ticket scalpers. It’s about believing what he writes, remembering the cities that clapped for him, and making his melodies become a memories. We like his country rockin’, how ‘bout you?