Eric Church Fans in Pittsburgh & Philadelphia Just Got Lucky

Eric Church playing solo, Salt Lake City, 2015

There’s an artist from down in Texas named Possessed by Paul James. A one man band who plays guitar, fiddle, and banjo like a madman, he is one of the best artists ever to see live if you have the opportunity. Seeing him play is less a performance, and more a religious experience.

Most of the time the performances of Possessed by Paul James are flawless, despite being completely improvisational. But every once in a while, something will go on the fritz. His guitar will short out, or he’ll pop a sting or something, and he’ll immediately start singing a capella, clapping his hand and stomping his feet. Secretly, I always pray for one of these occasions. Because in those impromptu moments of adversity is often when the greatest magic happens.

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Eric Church fans who have tickets for his show Friday night in Pittsburgh (10-8), and Saturday night in Philadelphia (10-9) were just notified that some of Church’s band have come down with COVID. So in an abundance of caution, the band and crew will not be participating in the shows this weekend. But since Church was traveling separately, he will be moving forward with the performances, just himself and his guitar.

Sure, if you’ve been working all week and were looking forward to getting your face rocked off this weekend by the kind of raucous show Eric Church brings live, you may be feeling a sense of disappointment at this news. But I’m here to tell you, you’ve lucked out. You’re about to receive a treat.

Every city on Eric Church’s current Gather Again Tour will get the same basic show, barring a few shake ups in the set list. But these Pennsylvania performances will be something special. As Eric Church has proven multiple times over the years, he can hold an entire audience with just a microphone and an acoustic guitar. Actually, it’s where he shines.

A similar scenario transpired in 2015 when Church’s entire crew and band came down with a stomach flu in Salt Lake City. Once again traveling separately, as everyone else was backstage puking their guts out, Eric Church came out with an acoustic guitar and put on a show that the fans who were in attendance are still raving about.

Then in 2019 at the CMA Fest in Nashville, Eric Church chose to perform a 17-song acoustic medley as opposed to performing with his band. Church had just played Nissan Stadium three weeks prior, and just didn’t want to play the same show in the same venue twice. Once again, the moment became more epic than performing with his full band.

Of course what makes these moments special is because they’re rare and unique. It may not work as the impetus for an entire arena tour. But make no mistake about it Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, you’ve hit the lottery here, and only one that a performer like Eric Church can deliver on.

It gets you to thinking, how many of today’s big mainstream country stars beyond Eric Church could actually pull this off? Brad Paisley and Keith Urban could. Regardless of what you might think about their music, they’re both accomplished guitar players on both acoustic and electric instruments. Blake Shelton can and does perform songs acoustically. Miranda Lambert can hold a crowd with just an acoustic guitar, like she recently did on Austin City Limits with Jon Randall and Jack Ingram. Hell, even Taylor Swift could do this, and has in the past.

But these are still the sort of “old guard” of mainstream country music. It used to be a requirement to be a great acoustic performer before they’d even consider giving you a major label deal. But could Breland or Kane Brown pull this off? Of course not. Dan+Shay or Walker Hayes? Not even close. Maybe for a song or two they could hold a crowd, but not an entire concert on less than 12 hours notice. They’re just not good enough.

But Eric Church is one of those rare performers who can not only pull it off, but excel while doing it. Where other entertainers may have cancelled the entire thing, or wouldn’t be able to step up to the task of performing an entire repertoire of music with just an acoustic guitar, it’s in times of adversity that someone like Eric Church shines. It’s also one of the reasons he’s the current CMA Entertainer of the Year.

Congratulations Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, fortune has smiled fondly upon you.

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