Church In Session for One Hell of a Night

Photos by Kamara Morozuk

Most people may not want to sit through a marathon session of Church but when Eric is giving the sermon it's a guarantee that nobody in his congregation is going to be nodding off in the pews. It was Friday night in O-town and the disciples packed the Canadian Tire Centre for three-hours of worship at the altar of Eric Church, baptized in that country twang where everybody would be saved.

As if to punctuate this sentiment, a lone spotlight shone down upon the stage lighting up Church's microphone as Jeff Buckley's ethereal cover of Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah” played before the show began. Stepping up to the pulpit of his 360-degrees-view stage, Eric Church, sporting his signature look black shirt and jeans accentuated by Ray Bans, was ready to court his “Mistress Named Music” and the masses couldn't have been more excited to bear witness to that union.

What would church be without the angelic sounds of a choir? The St. Mark's High School choir appeared on stage to begin the North Carolina musician's Ottawa stop of the Holdin' My Own Tour.

“I've seen it all,” Church told the audience with a smile reflecting on the last decade of his career.

"That smile is contagious,” shared fan Lisa Childs over Twitter where many had taken to social media to express how amazing the concert was. 

Known for giving every ounce of what he had to give during his epic stage shows, this night would be no different as the singer only paused once for a short break before steamrolling through a near 40-song set that would end only shortly before the midnight hour. Both his and the audience would be put through a workout but neither would show any signs of fatigue with Church repeatedly interacting with the fans and casting them in spotlights of their own. One lucky fan near the stage took home a memorable souvineer as Church handed him his “Chief” cup, one he'd been sipping from all night, before the intermission.

Before that, however, Church paid homage to one of the greats that inspired him with “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag” with an image of the late Merle Haggard appearing on screen to close out the track while the audience applauded both the legend and current country sensation. The first set also included fan favorites “Drink In My Hand”, “Mr. Misunderstood” and “Cold One”.

Taking a page out of another one of his musical heroes books (Bruce Springsteen, who once played near four hours shows with a brief break in-between), Church paused for about 20 minutes before returning with more vigor than before.

“I'd hang hate so that it can't be heard,” sang Church in “Kill A Word”, a song made all the more poignant by the current political climate in his homeland down South.

Church kept moving, using the massive stage to his advantage to play each corner ans give each part of the crowd a special moment. It was his third tour of Canada and he said that each one only topped the other before giving Ottawa a taste of national pride by busting out a cover of the The Band's “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”.

As the show neared the three hour mark Church seemingly taunted the fans to ensure they all still had a pulse. He wasn't ready to quit and the influence of The Boss was back in full force with “Springsteen”, the signer's 2012 hit about teenage love centred around Jersey's favorite son's music. He's a musician Church doesn't hide his adoration for as he worked brief snippets of his idols tunes into his own.

“Funny how a melody sounds like a memory” and Church created more than enough of both to go 'round closing the night with the appropriate climax: “Sinners Like Me”.

His name might imply the saintliness of the clergy but this country outlaw made it one hell of a night!


Mistress Named Music
That's Damn Rock & Roll
The Outsiders
Knives of New Orleans
Drink In My Hand
How 'Bout You
Livin' Part of Life
Cold One
Round Here Buzz
Mr. Misunderstood
Like a Wrecking Ball
Pledge Allegiance to the Hag
Smoke a Little Smoke

Ain't Killed Me Yet
Guys Like Me
Lotta' Boot Left to Fill
Record Year
Chattanooga Lucy
Two Pink Lines
Kill A Word
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (The Band cover)
Long Gone
Give Me Back My Hometown
Jack Daniels
Young And Wild
Before She Does
Mixed Drinks About Feelings
Three Year Old
Keep On
These Boots
Springsteen (including Dancing in the Dark / Bruce Springsteen cover)

Holdin' My Own
Sinners Like Me