There was a moment during last year’s CMA Awards that blew me away like nothing else I had seen before. It was Eric Church’s debut performance of his then new song “The Outsiders”. When I heard the country twang and gritty vocals segue into pounding drums and loud guitars, I took to Twitter and said that this was the coming of heavy metal country, or “Metalli-Country.” Now imagine the chills I got watching that one song on TV and extend that to an entire headlining show. That’s what I felt like watching Eric Church at the Verizon in Manchester, NH.
“The Outsiders” also opened the set as dark colored lighting decorated the stage and Church sang that line in this torch song that still gives me chills, “That’s who we are; that’s how we roll.” You could feel the energy rushing through the arena as the powerful guitars and pounding drums came in. And there was the tone for the rest of the evening.
The show was one nonstop playlist of hit after hit from the already large catalog of favorites. Eric even declared to the audience that “we’re gonna play every song, from every album!” Well that would make for a long night, but there were a lot of songs played. Going from “Creepin’” to “Talladega,” “Sinners Like Me,” “Cold One,” and my “crank up the radio and sing loudly not caring what anyone passing me on the road thinks” anthem, “Give Me Back My Hometown,” Eric and his killer band didn’t stop for one second.
Every show on The Outsiders Tour is tailored to the stop in some way and Eric made that known by telling the crowd “It’s important to me that every town gets a show specific to them.” The floor was open to request a song, which was met by a random woman asking for “You Make It Look So Easy.” (Eric also said “this is usually the ‘oh s—t’ portion of the show” since it could be a song that wasn’t rehearsed.) And even improvised, he made it look easy by going right into the fan favorite tune!
This show was a mix of the attitude of country and the spectacle of a rock show. Folks had drinks in their hands during “Drink In My Hand,” boots were raised up during “These Boots,” and a huge inflated Satan popped up to haunt us during “Devil, Devil.” This matches the style of Eric Church perfectly. Elements that used to be a huge part of rock have been infused into modern country, and he’s embraced that and found the right balance to put on a show that rocks hard without losing the country roots.
And he played Springsteen, not just the song “Springsteen”, but some old Springsteen too. A rendition of the working class lament “Born in the USA” segued into Eric’s own hit tribute to The Boss. And as he ended the song, he reminded us of what his lyrics about when “a melody feels like a memory” meant. That song that can take you back in time to a special moment in your life, there’s just nothing like it.
I’ve been to some rock and metal shows in my life and I’ve never seen a crowd that got as pumped up as the one I was among that night. Eric took us all to Church, and I can’t wait to go back.