Country music outlaw Eric Church is continuing his domination in 2015. Church released his fourth album The Outsiders just over a year ago, debuting at #1 on the both the Billboard Top 200 and Top Country Albums charts. It was the best-selling country album of 2014. Back in February, Church was a featured performer at the 57th Grammy Awards. He delivered an emotional rendition of “Give Me Back My Hometown”, and was also nominated for four Grammys that night. The fifth single from the album “Like a Wrecking Ball” is still impacting the radio waves. It’s a rather appropriate track, as Church has been rolling across the country like a wrecking ball on The Outsiders World Tour.
Last year, the likes of country legend Dwight Yokam, Grammy Award-winning hard rockers Halestorm, The Brothers Osborne, and Brandy Clarke all supported Church on respective stretches throughout the 31-show trek. Earlier this year, southern rockers Drive By Truckers accompanied Church on a string of dates. This time, folk outfit The Lone Bellow set the stage for Church and company.
After the opening set, the stage went dark and “Electric Worry” by Clutch came blasting through the speakers, as it has been this entire tour. The crowd began to sing along immediately, getting even more jacked up for The Chief to take the stage. Church comes out to Clutch. So badass.
Church slowly sauntered onto the stage with swagger and a gorgeous Gibson acoustic slung over his shoulder. He opened with “Cold One,” and the audience raised their cups if they had one. The second song was “Creepin’,” which had the crowd singing every word (as they did with almost every song that followed).
Church tore through a 23-song setlist that included hits like, “Getting’ Stoned,” “Guys Like Me,” “Country Music Jesus,” “Talladega,” “Like a Wrecking Ball,” “Smoke a Little Smoke,” “Give Me Back My Hometown,” the ultra-heavy rocker “Homeboy” and his feel-good megahit “Drink In My Hand.” This year, Church may have been the crown jewel of the Fair, and he also thought very highly of the Allentown crowd. “This is the second-to-last show on this tour leg, and that is it,” Church stated. “And you’ve set the bar very high, Allentown.”
He closed out the evening with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A” that bled into his signature tribute track “Springsteen” and “Raise ‘Em Up.” Speaking of The Boss, The Chief’s band The Outsiders are an absolutely stellar group that will one day take their place in the ranks with The E Street Band, The Heartbreakers, Crazy Horse, and other famous backing bands. He closed out the evening with a beautiful acoustic rendition of “Like Jesus Does.”
While I still think that Chief was Church’s finest hour, he’s definitely put out another gem with The Outsiders. The sold out shows on this tour run prove that Church is definitely at the height of his career and atop the country music world. He’s a rebellious renegade who’s doing it his way in class by himself.
Eric Church signed with Capitol Records in 2005, and released his debut LP Sinners Like Me in 2006. That same year, he made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry stage. He promoted the album on the road with Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Gary Allan, Dierks Bentley, and Miranda Lambert. In 2009, Church released his sophomore effort Carolina. The disc hit #4 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums Chart and produced three hit singles.
Church broke out in 2011 with his third album Chief. The disc skyrocketed to #1 on the Billboard Top 200 and Top Country Albums Charts, selling nearly 2 million copies in the U.S. alone. The disc ended up containing five hit singles, including fan-favorites “Homeboy” and “Creepin’” as well as #1 hits “Drink In My Hand” and “Springsteen”. Church toured with Toby Keith on the Locked & Loaded Tour, and he took home the American Country Music Award for Top New Solo Vocalist. The album Chief received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Country Album and won the CMA Award for Album of The Year.
In 2012, Church took his rebel reputation to a new level by accepting a personal invitation from heavy metal icons Metallica to perform at their own Orion Music + More Festival in Atlantic City, NJ alongside Avenged Sevenfold, Arctic Monkeys, Cage The Elephant, The Gaslight Anthem, Suicidal Tendencies, and more. – by Matt Bishop