Eric Church closed out his Holdin’ My Own Tour last night with the second of a two-night stand in Nashville. Over 42 songs, with no opening act, Church made the case that he is country music’s Springsteen – to whom he paid tribute near show’s end with his Number One single of the same name.
But the North Carolina native, a passionate fan of the Allman Brothers Band, also honored the memory of Gregg Allman, who died Saturday at age 69. Church has shared the stage with Allman in the past, and covered his “Win, Lose or Draw” and “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” at a 2014 Allman tribute show, so a nod to the late Southern rock pioneer was all but inevitable. Church chose “Midnight Rider,” launching into the road anthem with no introduction, or any words about Allman. Instead, he let the song speak for him, a clearly cathartic moment for both the artist and fans.
Harnessing the energy, Church immediately segued into another tribute: “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag,” his Merle Haggard homage from 2006’s Sinners Like Me. At one point, he traded his own drink for a fan’s red, white and blue scarf in the pit, which he wore for the remainder of the first set.
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Cover songs have been a centerpiece of Church’s marathon shows on the Holdin’ My Own Tour – he dropped in three, including Ben Harper’s “Steal My Kisses,” on Friday night, and sang Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage” for Chris Cornell in Washington, D.C. – but, aside from “Midnight Rider” and an unexpected take on Sammy John’s 1975 hook-up jam “Chevy Van,” the tour’s final set list was reserved for his own catalog.
He dug deep with his audibles, delivering “Young and Wild,” “You Make It Look So Easy” and “Livin’ Part of Life,” from his first two albums, and then fittingly returned to 2015’s Mr. Misunderstood to close the show with “Holdin’ My Own.” Joined by his entire band and road crew, Church bowed and disappeared. It was 12:25 am.