Eric Church was in the middle of “Springsteen” on Friday (May 26) at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena when he held up a fan’s banner that summed up everything about the 2017 Holdin’ My Own Tour.
In big capital letters, it simply read, “BEST [EXPLETIVE] TOUR EVER.”
When Church returned it to its owner, a woman in a black cowboy hat, he knelt down close to see her face and they exchanged a few words. She was just one of his 18,996 fans at night one of Church’s two-night tour closer — a show that lasted nearly four hours.
The concert set a new attendance record previously held by Bon Jovi when the band drew 18,514 fans to the Bridgestone in February. Church has a another chance to beat his new record with Saturday’s (May 27) finale.
Four songs into Friday’s set, he held up his right hand and said, “I, Eric Church, do solemnly swear to give you every damn thing I have tonight.”
And he delivered on that promise, entertaining with 39 songs including deep cuts, his hits, the Grateful Dead’s “Tennessee Jed” and “Steal My Kisses” by Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals.
There was no pyro needed throughout the night. Church and his band were fire all on their own. The only special effects were video screens hanging from the rafters that projected all the action onstage in black and white.
When his lighting illuminated the entire arena, thousands of fans could be seen coming apart at the seams to the music. The sight of his choir made Church visibly emotional behind his dark Ray Bans at least twice during the show — a timeless production he could stage for the rest of his life, and his fans will adore it every time they see it.
Those who had the best view were in the pit encompassed by Church’s 360-stage. They were surrounded by the band shredding on their instruments the entire night. Among the musical highlights from night one’s set were Church taking his vocals to Al Green registers on “Carolina,” his Hammond organ crawling on “Wrecking Ball” and his vocal standoff with backing vocalist Joanna Cotton on “Creepin’.”
He brought out 15-year-old McKinley “Mickey” Smay, who appears on the cover of Mr. Misunderstood, to perform the album’s title track with him. The East Nashville Magnet School Choir backed up the band on the show opener “Mistress Named Music.”
He took shots from Predators glasses with friends backstage during “Jack Daniels,” signed vinyl copies of his albums during “Record Year” and autographed boots (and a crutch) during “These Boots.”
Church will perform at Nissan Stadium on June 9 during the 2017 CMA Music festival. Eight more shows have been added to his schedule this fall starting Sept. 2-3 in Stateline, Nevada. The new shows will feature alternating guests Brothers Osborne, Margo Price and Ashley McBryde.