Eric Church told me to put a drink in my hand, so I did—along with the rest of the record-breaking crowd at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night (Jan. 10).
18,411 fans joined him for the more than two hour rampage through his catalog, making The Outsiders World Tour the venue’s highest attended event ever. Church—an advocate for getting fans in the door through fair ticketing practices—has a 360-degree stage configuration, so he can sell seats all the way around the arena.
But Church did more than lead a drinking party—he gave fans a killer show that kept them on their feet all night. They knew every album cut—old or new—and the way they recited “Pledge Allegiance To The Hag” it could’ve been the real Pledge of Allegiance. Their connection with Chief was tangible, even saluting him by taking off their boots and waving them in the air during “These Boots.”
In sight and sound, it was like a careening rock show that veered down a country road. In rock fashion, lighting effects and metal contraptions were the centerpiece of the fluid set which moved throughout the concert, with parts climbing from the floor or suspended from above. The stage was shaped like a fork lift, with Church and company often venturing into the crowd on the platforms. The metal-inspired musicians were accented by Joanna Cotten’s soaring backing vocals.
Lighting rigs moved up and down from the ceiling, the glowing tentacles hanging like swampy weeds. Lasers sliced the sky in a display of power rock glory. Red lighting set the mood for the scorching “That’s Damn Rock and Roll,” performed with opening act Lzzy Hale.
Monitors suspended above the stage showed a video feed of Church with an authentic-feeling black and white display. There was also an eerie pre-recorded video of Church’s spoken word recitation of “Dark Side,” showing the singer with soulless eyes. He led fans further into the night with the song “Devil Devil,” during which a giant devil wearing a belt buckle inscribed “Nashville,” inflated at the back of the arena. Whether the inflatable was cool or crazy, it definitely made an impression.
Next Church sought redemption by singing “Country Music Jesus.” Throughout the night he kept the show exciting, and plenty country, with a set list that included “Guys Like Me,” “Talladega,” “Cold One,” “Homeboy” and “Give Me Back My Hometown.” He covered parts of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “The Ballad of Curtis Loew,” and later, The Boss’ “Thunder Road” before segueing into “Springsteen.”
Today Church announced that The Outsiders World Tour will continue into the spring, with guests including Brothers Osborne, Drive-By-Truckers, JD McPherson, The Cadillac Three and The Lone Bellow.