At the start of last night’s epic, three-plus hour concert at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, country singer-guitarist Eric Church warned the capacity crowd about what he had in store. “We are going to give it everything we got,” he said. “If you just meet us halfway, it’ll be the best damn show you ever saw.”
He wasn’t kidding. Church and his terrific backing band gave a Springsteen-like performance that drew from all six of his studio albums and featured more than 30 tunes.
You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here
The concert, the first of a two-night stand at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, featured all the trappings of an arena rock show too. There was a multi-tiered stage, a gigantic video screen that occasionally separated into panels that hung from the arena’s rafters and a party pit filled with rabid fans who brought items for Church to sign (and he obliged them throughout the night).
The material ran a wide gamut. At times, Church adopted a somber tone. He delivered a simmering rendition of “Mr. Misunderstood” and tacked a snippet of the Hank Williams ballad “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” to “Cold One.” He capably crooned his way through “Like Jesus Does” and channeled the late Tom Petty on the Southern rocker “Carolina” before bringing the show’s first set to a glorious close with “The Outsiders,” a righteous anthem that found him alternating between whispering and screaming.
The second set started with the stripped down “Some Old Fool” and included covers of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” and Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good,” songs that Church and the band worked up just for the tour’s Cleveland stop. “We’ll play them tonight and never again,” he said.
Church prefaced “Jack Daniels” by talking about how much he loved playing Rootstown’s Dusty Armadillo back in the day, adding that the raucous show gave him a “glimpse of something bigger.”
Church encouraged the crowd to sing along to “Smoke a Little Smoke” by standing at the edge of the stage’s catwalk and pitting one side of the arena against the other side; the song concluded with a remarkably spot-on Black Sabbath riff. He’d return to acoustic instrumentation for “Homeboy,” a twangy song that featured a bit of banjo, and he delivered a poignant rendition of his hit “Give Me Back My Hometown.”
Throughout the epic performance, Church practically taunted the crowd. “Halftime is over, and now I’m going to come at you,” he said at the start of the show’s second half. “We can go as far as you wanna go,” he said near the concert’s conclusion. Like the marathon runner who has a smile on his face as he crosses the finish line, Church clearly loves the test of endurance, and, as this remarkable performance proved, he’s really learned to pace himself well.
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