Country star Eric Church broke down in tears while performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville on Wednesday night, recalling his Friday performance at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas two days before a gunman opened fire into the crowd on Sunday.
In the crowd, Church left two empty chairs for Heather Melton and her husband Sonny, who was killed during the festival in Las Vegas. The two of them had tickets for Wednesday night’s show.
“The reason I’m here tonight is because of Heather Melton and [her husband] Sonny who died,” admitted Church, who mentioned that he saw a video of Anderson Cooper interviewing Heather in the aftermath of her husband’s death. In the video, Heather claimed that Church was her husband’s “guy” and that they went to the festival to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
“I saw that crowd,” said Church of his Friday night performance. “I saw them with their hands in the air and I saw them with boots in the air and what I saw — that moment in time was frozen — there’s no amount of bullets that could take it away.”
Pausing to control himself as his voice started breaking, he received great support from the applauding and hollering crowd.
Following his emotional comments, Church performed a new song honoring the victims and their families. He later performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
The Route 91 Harvest Festival was one of Church’s stops in his 2017 Holdin My Own tour.
Sunday night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas left 58 concertgoers dead and over 500 wounded outside the Mandalay Bay resort and casino after Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire during country star Jason Aldean’s set. Aldean has since penned an emotional letter stating that “something has to change” in the U.S., and several public figures have called for policy reform and stricter gun control laws.
You can watch the entirety of Church’s speech and new song in the video above.