Eric Church is widely known as one of the best performers in country music. His unique ability to blend genres makes his records good, but hearing the sound live takes things to another level. His heavily rock influenced show, makes it unlike anything else around. One moment he’s in your face and the next he’s slowing things down. There’s songs about things that matter and songs about those that don’t. But if you’ve seen the chief perform before you already knew all that. What made Thursday night at the TD Garden different was the record breaking length.
Every time Church steps on stage you know he’s going to give it his all. It forces those in the industry to respect him, and causes his fans to fall in love with him. As the Garden filled up with fans, Chris Stapleton kicked things off with his musical style that’s reminiscent of Eric Church. He has killer pipes, but doesn’t over do it. Despite, being relatively new to the touring scene he possessed the surprisingly rare ability to hold himself back. He knew exactly when to go for the big notes and when to keep things smooth. His performances are made even more impressive due to double duty on lead guitar. It’s clear he’s talented enough to hold his own with many lead guitarist, yet takes things a step further by singing as well.
As good as Stapleton was, few seemed familiar with his music. That may change in the coming weeks as he’ll release his debut album, Traveller, this Tuesday. But for now, there was no way he was stealing any of Eric Church’s thunder. The chief opened his set with a rousing rendition of “The Outsiders.” Wasting no time getting the nearly sold out crowd onto their feet where they would remain for the night. He fed off their energy from start to finish. It didn’t matter if they were singing, dancing, or a little of both Church knew just how happy his fans were to see him. It’d been over a year and a half since Church performed in Massachusetts and the fans let him know it.
He spent the first half of his set focusing on music from the new record. Chart topping hits like “Talladega” and “Give Me Back My Hometown” came early along with deep cuts like “Dark Side” and “Devil, Devil.” It was here that Church unveiled his giant inflatable devil. Those with seats towards the back of the arena got an up close and personal look at the nearly forty foot taller monster to whom Church sings about on the track. The four minutes or so that it’s inflated likely served as the only ones where fans didn’t have their eyes locked on the headliner.
Moving about his expansive stage allowed those with seats at varying angles to interact with the singer. Despite spending the majority of his set facing the front of the venue, he made sure to give those with seats behind the stage some love. Most notably on “These Boots” when he asked a fan with seats behind the stage to toss one of her boots to him so he could sign it. It’s a regular part of the show, but it never fails to get a loud round of applause. The same can be said for when Church took a moment to sign the boot of a young girl who spent hours waiting outside the venue before the show. Her wait paid off as Church bent over to sign the boot and pose for a short photo before returning to the music.
The second half of the set took fans back to his early days. Those who have been following for the entirety of his career were rewarded to throwbacks like “Before She Does” and “How About You.” His ability to connect the different stages of his career in one show is paralleled by only Kenny Chesney. Where most singers struggle, Church manages to shine. He’d transition between songs that were cut sometimes five years apart and make them sound like they were from the same record. It’s easy to take advantage of such a thing, but it shouldn’t be overlooked as one of the more impressive parts of his show.
Church closed things out with a medley of a couple Grammy nominated songs. First, singing “Raise ‘Em Up” a track that was nominated for a Grammy Award back in February. Keith Urban does a great job singing lead on the studio cut, but Church takes the meaning of the song to a deeper level. It’s a track that was made to be sung by the platinum selling artist and he did just that before bridging the track with the biggest hit of his career “Springsteen.” As always, this is where fans take their excitement to another level. It’s a song that has the rare ability to speak to all ages. It doesn’t matter if you’re twenty five or sixty five, everyone has a song that takes them back to a specific time and place. For Church it’s a Bruce Springsteen track that brings him back to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Charlotte, North Carolina and for those in attendance on Thursday it’ll be “Springsteen” that takes them back to the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.