Country music since its earliest days has, like any genre, had several different groups. Commercially accepted and the underground or the independent artists, in country that comparison is usually made between Pop Country and Outlaw Country. It’s the difference between George Jones “The King of Country” and Waylon Jennings the man who asked, “Are You Sure Hank done it this way?” Now that comparison lies between artists like Luke Bryan and Sturgill Simpson.
Eric Church has always been an interesting person when looking at where he stands on the country spectrum. At the beginning of his career, you could stick Church right in with the rest of modern country music, with maybe a tinge of edginess to his music. But as he’s grown as an artist, Church has begun to sit in the middle possibly helping bridge the gap between these sects.
One difference between the new outlaw and pop country is the artists’ voice and Church has begun to use his voice. On is new critically acclaimed album Desperate Man Church addresses big topic issues like gun violence and identity politics, all while still being able to pack the U.S. Bank Arena.
Friday night, Church played a sold-out U.S. Bank Arena where he would play two nights this weekend. The show began with “That’s Damn Rock & Roll,” and “Desperate Man,” two songs that although weren’t one of Church’s hits they got a rowdy crowd excited and on their feet. Often the crowd too loud to hear Church’s lyrics seemed to never let up throughout the nearly three and half hour set.
Church has the stage presence of many huge country arena acts that resembles Garth Brooks or Tim McGraw, but the attitude and demeanor of an 80’s rock star. Loud guitars, his signature aviators while on stage and big hook anthems.
The first set ended with a medley of songs including Jimmy Buffet’s ‘Fins,’ Bad Company’s ‘Feel Like Making Love,’ and John Mellencamp’s ‘Pink Houses.’ Showcasing Church’s band and Church’s influence that continue to merge into the genre of classic rock.
The second set began with one of Church’s most politically charged songs ‘The Snake.’ The song refers to those in power taken advantage and putting fear in those without. A shift in song writing for Church that will be interesting to follow as his career goes on. Following that Church continued to lay on his hits like ‘Jack Daniels,’ ‘Smoke A Little Smoke,’ and ‘Springsteen.’
By the end of the show you could truly see that Church prides himself on his live performances, barely talking a break to even talk to the crowd, it almost seemed like he didn’t have time. More concerned on making sure his fans heard all the songs that they love and wanted to hear. Giving a marathon performance that had Church almost competing with his fans, left me thinking that there are still many artists who truly care about their fans and frankly love performing.
As for his status on the country music spectrum, Church sits rightly on his own. With songs that don’t shy away from his views and lifestyle, it seems that he can still sell out venues. It will be interesting to see what venue artists like Sturgill Simpson and Margo Price will be playing ten years into their careers.