Eric Church loves Omaha.
By our count, he’s played the Omaha area 14 times since 2006. Twice more, he’s played in Lincoln.
And he’s coming to Omaha to kick off his new tour with two nights — Friday and Saturday — at CHI Health Center.
“We started at the casino there,” Church told us in 2017. “It’s always been a special town.”
And his fans, the Church Choir, have stuck with him throughout.
“This is the first place we could call home,” Church once told an Omaha crowd. “I remember Whiskey Roadhouse and Whiskey Tango and Stir Cove. ... It started with a few of us that couldn’t fit in this pit right here and it turned into, ‘Holy (crap), what have you done in Omaha?’ I’ll never forget you, Omaha, Nebraska.”
We looked back at his area concert dates for memories of the country star.
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June 22, 2006
Church’s first concert here, so far as we can tell, came just before he released his debut album, “Sinners Like Me.”
Aug. 11, 2006
At the time, Church was a frequent player at the Horseshoe Casino’s venue.
Oct. 19, 2006
For a while, Church opened for Rascal Flatts. But he was dropped from their tour for playing his opening sets too long. But he remained on tour, and the day Rascal Flatts played the Mid-America Center, Church came back to the Whiskey Roadhouse.
Nov. 11, 2007
Fans went crazy for Church every time. In a YouTube video from this show, you can barely hear him sing “How ’Bout You” over the screaming.
July 5, 2008
Church didn’t yet have the ballcap and aviators look. He was rocking shaggy hair.
Sept. 6, 2008
Church’s show at the downtown Omaha venue is well documented on YouTube. He played “Carolina,” changing the lyrics to say, “But I gotta play the star in downtown Omaha tonight.”
Oct. 18, 2008
Big things were happening for Church, and this was his last time on any kind of small stage around here.
July 3, 2009
Church graduated to Stir Cove, bringing Randy Houser and Lee Brice in as openers.
July 9, 2010
He came back! Again. This guy did not tire of playing local casino music venues, did he?
Aug. 25 and 26, 2011
Were you there? You might be forever immortalized on film. Church’s “Drink in My Hand” video was filmed entirely at the two Council Bluffs shows. “We got some shots of the crowd, and at one point I jumped off into the crowd a little bit,” Church told tasteofcountry.com. “It was pretty damn crazy! It was something that was fun to get on camera.”
Jan. 17, 2014
On George Strait’s last big tour, he got some hard-hitting openers. Church played a solo acoustic slot as an opener, and it ended up going so well that he did more and more acoustic shows.
Sept. 18, 2014
Church went big-time, kicking off a major arena tour with openers like Dwight Yoakam. It was one of the arena’s largest concerts ever.
Pinnacle Bank Arena
May 20, 2015
Church’s show in Lincoln was one of the arena’s largest ever.
Pinnacle Bank Arena
Jan. 13, 2017
Church launched his “Holdin’ My Own” tour in Lincoln. A 24-member vocal choir from Omaha South High joined him to sing “Mistress Named Music.”
April 8, 2017
The “Holdin’ My Own” tour continued into Omaha. Church played two sets and 36 total songs.
CHI Health Center
Friday and Saturday
Church will kick off his tour in Omaha with two(!) concerts. According to his website, Church will play different sets each night of the show.
1 of 20
1. “Omaha,” Waylon Jennings
“Omaha, you’ve been weighin’ heavy on my mind”
On a tune written by Billy Joe Shaver, Jennings sings about leaving Omaha for better places only to realize it was a mistake. After some jailtime in California, the song reckons that it’s time to return to Nebraska.
2. “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis,” Tom Waits
“I went back to Omaha to live with my folks”
As the titular prostitute notes, everyone she used to know is either dead or in prison. In this tune, Omaha represents its own kind of prison, so she moves back to Minneapolis. Oof. (Of course, the truth we find in the song’s last line is rougher than anything.)
3. “Omaha Stylee,” 311
“Omaha stylee, did not think there was one”
The Omaha-bred rock band dishes about how it comes from a town where “the shows are more fun.” For years, 311 has used this song as its concert opener as a salute to its hometown. “We’re proud of where we came from, and we know how we feel and we kinda want to write a song that there’s no doubt where this band is from,” drummer Chad Sexton told The World-Herald about writing the song.
4. “We’re an American Band,” Grand Funk Railroad
“Four young chiquitas in Omaha/Waitin’ for the band to return from the show”
There’s nothing quite like a hotel party after the show, and that’s what those chiquitas were after. They wanted to meet the boys in the band and, as the song says, “tear that hotel down.”
6. “Omaha,” Counting Crows
“Omaha/Somewhere in middle America”
Adam Duritz wrote “Omaha” long before the Counting Crows recorded it, but he thought his other bands could never quite get the feel right. He loved “Omaha” by Moby Grape as well as R.E.M.’s cover of it, and he loved the sound of the word.
7. “Turn the Page,” Bob Seger
"On a long and lonesome highway, east of Omaha"
Seger and his band were always annoyed that their long hair attracted so much attention.
“I wrote that song in 1971. We were in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and we got accosted by some traveling salesmen,” Seger told The World-Herald in 2011. “The salesmen were calling us girls and everything. ... (The Rolling Stones) were going through the same thing at the same time we were. They were in the South, but ours happened in the North, in Wisconsin.”
But why the Omaha mention?
“We didn’t get much west of Omaha because we weren’t very big at the time,” Seger said, laughing. “We were always east of Omaha!”
8. “Omaha,” Damien Jurado
“The land of Nebraska is beautiful at night”
An Omaha man hits the road with his three kids.
9. “Omaha, Nebraska,” Groucho Marx
“There’s a place called Omaha, Nebraska/in the foothills of Tennessee”
This silly song depicts a forlorn man who says his sweetie promised to love him precisely “when the snow falls in Montana and it’s raining in Peru.” So, never.
10. “Omaha,” Moby Grape
Listed as No. 95 on Rolling Stone’s list of the greatest guitar songs of all time, this tune doesn’t actually mention our city except in its title. But it is a seriously awesome jam with three guitarists battling it out. It also inspired Counting Crows' "Omaha."
11. “Omaha,” They Might Be Giants
“Sokol Auditorium/Party in the night time/...Sokol Auditorium/Psychedelic light show”
On its album, “Venue Songs,” They Might Be Giants provided 31 songs that were written and recorded at each venue of its 2004 tour.
13.“Hello in There,” John Prine
“John and Linda live in Omaha”
Growing old can be lonely, and Prine spells it out in detail, up to and including when his kids grow up and move to Omaha.
14. “(Ready or Not) Omaha Nebraska,” Bowling for Soup
“And now it’s two men on, two men gone, batter up/Ready or not, Omaha, Nebraska”
This is basically a song advertising baseball and Omaha that was commissioned for ESPN’s coverage of the College World Series. Bowling for Soup lead singer Jaret Reddick told The World-Herald that he wrote it in just a few minutes. “We do a bunch of stuff for film and TV and that sort of special-order thing,” he said.
18. “Letter From Omaha,” Josh Ritter
“Sent me a letter from Omaha”
Josh Ritter weaves a story about missing someone with lots of imagery of farm fields and sewing. We’re pretty sure Omaha just sounded cool.
19. “Uneasy Rider,” Charlie Daniels
“I wonder if anybody’d think I’d flipped/If I went to L.A., via Omaha”
Daniels’ poor experience in Mississippi causes him to rethink his route for next time.
20. “Shower,” The Mountain Goats
“The blackest storm I ever saw was coming in from Omaha”
As he frequently did, John Darnielle wrote about a dark day that could be washed away only by a shower.
21. “The Great Salt Lake,” Band of Horses
“Everybody listen we will be the next Omaha”
Frontman Ben Bridwell wrote this tune about a South Carolina reservoir and the people hanging out around there, and one of them posits that their town could one day reach the heights of Omaha’s music scene.
22. “The Simultaneous Occurrence of True Love and Nausea at an Omaha Burger King, Oct. 12, 1992,” Simon Joyner
“That’s love to me/It occurs every day in Burger Kings”
Joyner’s lo-fi acoustic composition sounds like every awkward crush we had in high school.
23. “Greater Omaha,” Desaparecidos
“Out west they’re moving dirt/To make a greater Omaha”
Conor Oberst circa 2002 sings about his home city and how commercialized everything has become. It’s not a good view.
24. “Leaving Omaha,” The Good Life
“I was moving up and out/Out of Omaha/Oh, it didn’t last”
As many high schoolers do, Tim Kasher dreamed of getting out of Omaha after graduation. He did, but he came back. That sounds like it was a bad thing, but he sounds happy about it by the end of the song: “I’ve got to get back over that bridge/...I guess that’s where I’ll stay.”
25. “The Execution of All Things,” Rilo Kiley
“Then we’ll go to Omaha, to work and exploit the booming music scene”
That’s kinda what the band did when it signed up with Saddle Creek Records.