Since I last wrote about Eric Church, his career has absolutely skyrocketed! His latest album Chief debuted at the top of Billboard’s country album charts despite his never having a top five hit at the time of the album’s release. I was fortunate enough to be one of the 100 fan club members who were able to purchase a ticket to his 2011 fan club party. The party was held at United Record Pressing in Nashville on June 10, 2011. During the party Eric treated us to live acoustic snippets of several songs on the new album and then followed each acoustic performance with a clip of the album version of the song. The songs drew me in immediately and it was tough waiting another seven weeks for the album to be released. With the album’s huge debut, it was apparent that he had drawn the attention of lots of new fans, too.

Fast forward to late 2011/early 2012 – Chief had already been certified gold and had received a Grammy nomination for best country album. Its second single “Drink in My Hand” was nearing the top of the charts. Details of Eric’s first arena headlining tour began to emerge. I had gotten an email which included information about the cities to be included as tour stops. I was immediately excited to see a Nashville date. In my mind I was thinking that the show would probably be held at the Ryman or the War Memorial Auditorium. A few weeks later, the dates and venues were released and I was genuinely surprised that he would be playing Bridgestone Arena. I can’t think of many artists who would tackle the 15,000+ seat arena on their first major headlining tour. But I was so excited to see that this was the venue because I was sure that the show wouldn’t have been scheduled there if they weren’t confident that they could fill it and with so many fans in attendance, I knew that it would be a great time.

I was also excited to find out that Brantley Gilbert would be the middle act on the tour. If you’ve read CCC very often, you know that I’m a huge BG fan! His career has also been catapulted to the next level in the past year. I have said on more than one occasion that Brantley’s music and live performances remind me of Eric Church’s so, in my mind, this tour has been a great combination.

Kicking off the show in Nashville was Blackberry Smoke, yet another one of my favorites. They recently wrapped production on Whippoorwill, the band’s first album for Zac Brown’s Southern Ground record label. The album won’t be in stores until the fall, but if you’re at a show, you can pick it up now. I bought my copy at the concert, but I haven’t had a chance to listen to it much yet. From the little bit that I have heard so far, it’s really good! BBS always delivers a high energy set filled with their unique brand of Southern rock flavored country music. Their music really can’t fit neatly into any one genre. Blackberry Smoke’s set passed way too quickly and consisted of several songs from the new album and a few favorites from their previous album, Little Piece of Dixie.

Brit Turner – BBS Drummer
IMG_0242

Richard Turner – BBS Bassist
IMG_0245

Charlie Starr – BBS Lead Singer & Guitarist
IMG_0225

Blackberry Smoke’s Set List
• Leave a Scar
• Six Ways to Sunday
• Good One Comin’ On
• Sleeping Dogs
• Up in Smoke
• Everybody Knows She’s Mine
• Shakin’ Hands with the Holy Ghost

Paul Jackson – BBS Guitarist
IMG_0208

Brandon Still – BBS Pianist
IMG_0223

Brantley Gilbert was out next. He has a huge advantage over a lot of other newcomers. He wrote one of the biggest songs of 2010 – “My Kinda Party.” So, when he opens his set with the song, the crowd instantly connects, even if some audience members have never listened to any of BG’s music. All of Brantley’s years touring the bar circuit are evident when he’s on the big stage. He has the confidence and the ability to hold the audience in the palm of his hand from the opening note. This is pretty unheard of for an artist who only has one major label album to his credit. (Granted, he does have an earlier self-titled album in his catalog, too.) When Brantley is on stage, it almost feels as if he is the headliner and most certainly he will soon be the headliner! Near the end of the set as Brantley’s band was playing the instrumental outro on “Take It Outside,” Brantley left the stage. The band kept playing and rolled into the opening bars of “Kick It in the Sticks.” We could hear Brantley’s voice, but couldn’t see him. There was a spotlight shining in the back of the arena that made its way slowly back to the stage. In a move reminiscent of his bar days when he would walk through the crowd at the end of his show, Brantley had decided to delight the fans in the seats at the back of the arena with an up-close and personal, albeit, brief visit. By the second verse of the song, he was back on stage and delivering a great end to his awesome set. During the set changeover, I actually heard a guy behind me say, “After seeing Brantley Gilbert and how awesome he was, I’m not even excited to see Eric Church.” BG’s set was certainly entertaining and would probably be considered the high point were it in pretty much any other show. But, little did that guy know… Eric Church was about to show us that he came to Nashville to party.

IMG_0305

IMG_0335

IMG_0354

Brantley Gilbert’s Set List
• My Kinda Party
• Hell on Wheels
• Country Must Be Countrywide
• Dirt Road Anthem
• You Don’t Know Her Like I Do
• My Kind of Crazy
• Take It Outside
• Kick It in the Sticks

IMG_0264

IMG_0342

The weekend before the Nashville show, Eric had to cancel his Sunday night concert in Bloomington, IL because he had lost his voice. He also canceled the show the night before Nashville, which made me a little nervous. My hope was that he canceled the Friday night show to ensure that he would be in top shape for his homecoming show in his adopted hometown where all eyes were sure to be on him. Of course a lot of that attention resulted from the release of EC’s controversial interview with Rolling Stone on Monday before the Nashville show. Once the article was out, he drew heat from Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton for his criticism of reality talent shows. Marty Smith, a writer for ESPN and a personal friend of Eric’s, posted this, which pretty much sums up what I think happened with the article and my opinion on the situation. Prior to the show, my friends and I speculated as to whether he would address the article and ensuing controversy. I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t think that he would say anything and I even used the phrase “let the music speak for itself,” which funnily enough, was a phrase that he used in an interview with CMT that aired on CMT Insider on the morning of the show. But, I didn’t see the interview until I got home and watched it on my DVR on Sunday. After seeing the CMT interview, which I gathered was actually filmed months ago, I was further convinced that Eric wasn’t taking a swipe at anyone specifically, but rather, he was frustrated with the perception that being on a reality talent competition instantly means fame and fortune without putting in any hard work. Certainly any country artists who have participated in these types of shows and then translated that exposure into a successful career understood that once they gained fame on the show, they would have to work hard to maintain it and be relevant and accepted in the industry. I don’t think that anyone can even question the dedication and hard work that hugely successful artists such as Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert have put into their careers after their initial big break.

As the lights went down and Eric’s set began, he emerged from beneath the stage in a cloud of smoke and launched into “Country Music Jesus.” The performance came complete with pyrotechnics. Even from the opening words of the song, I could tell that he was really amped up and ready for this show. He proved it time and time again during his nearly two hour set as he screamed and furiously clapped his hands and pounded his chest. His set list contained a good mix of songs from the new album balanced with radio singles and fan favorites from his two previous albums. During “Jack Daniel’s” someone standing near us pitched an airplane bottle of Jack Daniel’s onto the stage. Eric politely picked it up, tilted his head back and poured it in. When he was done, he chucked the empty bottle into the audience, wiped his mouth with his sleeve and pointed a finger in joking disapproval at the person who threw the bottle.

IMG_0376

IMG_0384

IMG_0412

IMG_0447

He showed that his musical instrument abilities exceed just being able to play the guitar. During “Creepin’” he played a banjo outfitted with a skull and crossbones. He also displayed his piano skills during “Springsteen.” A little over halfway through the show, his band left the stage and he stood alone with his guitar. He played three songs acoustically. Before “Sinners Like Me,” he explained that he’d moved to Nashville to be a songwriter. One day he met with a publishing executive and played “Sinners” and was told that he needed to pack up and move back to North Carolina. I’m sure that guy is kicking himself now! He started playing the song and it sounded like all 15,000+ in the arena were singing along. When he’d finished playing the song, he was visibly choked up by the audience’s response. He was wearing his trademark Von Dutch trucker hat and Ray-Ban aviators, which he kept on. But he was wiping his face on his shirt sleeve. It took him somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute to regain his composure. He closed the acoustic set with “Love Your Love the Most.” As he got to the last chorus of “Love Your Love” and the line about loving Jack D in his Coke, the person on the front row once again threw a Jack Daniel’s mini on the stage and once again, EC turned it up. But this time once he finished, he looked at the person and said, “S**t!” as he was laughing and wiping his mouth. Early in the show, Eric revealed that he drinks 94 proof Jack Daniel’s on stage, which he also discusses in the Rolling Stone article. So I’m guessing that the lower proof black label JD wasn’t quite as smooth going down. During the whole show, EC was smiling and really interacting with the crowd more than I’ve seen him do before.

IMG_0482

IMG_0419

IMG_0440

Turning up the Jack Daniel’s
IMG_0512

Post-Jack D
IMG_0513

Following the end of the acoustic set, the band rejoined him and they were full-on rocking for the rest of the night. Before “Homeboy,” which closes the regular set, Eric played the opening verse and chorus of Hank Williams, Jr.’s “A Country Boy Can Survive.” This is the only cover song that he’s play at any of his shows that I’ve seen. He also played it in Tallahassee, FL in March, but he didn’t played it in Knoxville, TN in February. So it got added somewhere along the way. He closed out “Homeboy” and thanked everyone for coming out and having a great time. But I don’t think that there was anyone in the arena who was ready to leave. Thankfully, Eric and the band returned to the stage quickly for the encore. Eric has often said that when they play “Smoke a Little Smoke,” things quickly go into riot mode. This night was no different. Everything got much rowdier once that song started. During “These Boots” it’s become a tradition for everyone to hold up a boot. One lucky fan’s boot usually gets chosen by Eric to hold up as he sings the last verse. Eric chose a boot and after he finished singing, he signed the boot and dropped a guitar pick into it. What an awesome souvenir! He closed the show with his current single, “Springsteen.” It was such a fitting way to close what was truly a spectacular performance. Eric had some issues with the microphone at the piano falling over which just caused him to smile and laugh even more. Before singing the final chorus, Eric urged everyone to take out their cell phones and wave them. There were probably 10,000 cell phones lighted up and waving throughout the arena. It was a pretty incredible sight to see from the floor. I imagine that it was even more breathtaking from EC’s vantage point. He told the audience that he hoped that the night’s show was a blending of his melodies and the memories that were made at the show. He finished the song at the piano and then stood on one of the boxes at the front of the stage marveling at the crowd’s enthusiasm and tipping his hat to everyone for coming to the show.

IMG_0387

IMG_0425

Here’s a great video that I found of the “Springsteen” performance:

IMG_0530

This was my third show of the Blood, Sweat and Beers Tour and my 16th Eric Church show overall. Each one has been better than the last, but this one was almost indescribable. He never addressed the Rolling Stone controversy but by the end of the night, Eric had indeed let the music speak for itself. And I’m sure that guy behind me was glad that he stuck around for the main event. If anyone in attendance was on the fence about EC or his music, I am quite certain that he erased any doubts on Saturday night in Nashville. It was a spectacular performance and I’m already itching to see another show soon!

IMG_0594

IMG_0601

IMG_0500

IMG_0607

Eric Church’s Set List
• Country Music Jesus
• Guys Like Me
• Hell on the Heart
• Pledge Allegiance to the Hag
• How ‘Bout You
• Carolina
• I’m Gettin’ Stoned
• Jack Daniel’s/Livin’ Part of Life
• Hungover and Hard Up
• Keep On
• Creepin’

Acoustic Set
• Two Pink Lines
• Sinners Like Me
• Love Your Love the Most

• Drink in My Hand
• Lotta Boot Left to Fill
• A Country Boy Can Survive/Homeboy

Encore
• Smoke a Little Smoke
• These Boots
• Springsteen

IMG_0538

IMG_0582

IMG_0627

IMG_0629

IMG_0631

To see all of pictures from the Nashville show as well as pictures from the two other EC shows that I’ve attended this year, click the links below:

Nashville pictures

Pictures from Tallahassee, FL 3-24-12

Pictures from Knoxville, TN 2-3-12

Advertisements
Posted by: Amy | May 19, 2011

Rachel Farley Launches Website

Average Joes Entertainment recording artist, and my friend, Ms. Rachel Farley has just launched her official website ahead of the release of her debut album. Check it out: rachelfarleymusic.com

I had the privilege of being in the studio for a couple of days as Rachel recorded her debut album with producer Michael Knox. Knox is probably most known for his work with Jason Aldean, but he has also produced songs for Josh Thompson, Hank Williams, Jr. and Montgomery Gentry, among others. The whole album is going to be fantastic! Rachel is a gifted songwriter and her passion for her music shows in every song on the album. When you check out Rachel’s site, you get to preview three of the tracks from the upcoming album.

Be sure to check her site often as she is adding tour dates and other information. If you’re going to be in Nashville during CMA Music Fest, you can catch her at the Hard Rock Cafe outdoor stage on Friday, June 10. And, if you’d like to learn a little more about Rachel, you can read the interview that I did with her last summer here.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Categories