LAS VEGAS -- When Eric Church sings about a "Drink in My Hand," he must be drawing on first-hand experience.
Photo Credit: Mark Davis/Getty Images
Working his way through several cups of whiskey and innumerable reference to Jack Daniel's, Church celebrated Saturday night (March 31) with thousands of country fans at a free concert on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. His invigorating show capped two nights of music leading up to the ACM Awards on Sunday night.
Laura Bell Bundy, the Eli Young Band, Craig Campbell and Jana Kramer also performed high-energy sets to dedicated country fans and curious tourists.
Church's Chief is up for album of the year at the ACM Awards, and about half of his live material was drawn from that album. This is the first time I've seen Church perform since he released Chief, and he's managed to convey the attitude and personality in that album into his live show without losing the craft of being a smart and thoughtful singer-songwriter.
He shut down his set with "Springsteen," and judging by the crowd response, it could be his biggest hit yet. It stacks up well against previous success stories like "Homeboy" (nominated in the ACM's video category), "Smoke a Little Smoke," "How Bout You," "Hell on the Heart" and "Love Your Love the Most." Key Chief cuts like "Country Music Jesus," "Creepin'" and "I'm Gettin' Stoned" fit effortlessly into his set, too.
Prior to Church's set, Bundy previewed material from her upcoming project, including songs like "If I Treat You Like a Man, Will You Love Me Like a Man?" and "Let's Pretend We're Married." If you liked her debut country single, "Giddy on Up," you'll enjoy her new material equally. You can certainly tell she enjoys being an entertainer.
The Eli Young Band concluded their rip-roaring set with "Crazy Girl," their first No. 1 single and the most-played song at country radio last year. That achievement was recognized with three ACM nominations -- vocal group, single and song of the year. They've been together for more than 10 years, and they dipped into their deep catalog for tunes like "Jet Black and Jealous," "Guinevere" and "When It Rains."
In the final minutes of their set, they expressed their immense gratitude to country radio and fans for making "Crazy Girl" a hit, and you could see folks singing along. Although they were surrounded by blackjack dealers, roulette wheels and slot machines, that kind of crowd response must be the biggest payoff of all.
Campbell has already found moderate success at country radio with "Family Man," "Fish" and "When I Get It." Cut straight from the contemporary country cloth, those songs are easy to like. Campbell's country roots were also showing with a medley of his all-time favorite country songs that surveyed Shenandoah, Clint Black, Brooks & Dunn, Travis Tritt and Alabama. Campbell is working on a new album now, and with influences like those, fans can hope for big things in the future.
Kramer's debut album is due on June 5, and she previewed many of its songs which fall into a category she calls "sassy class." She defined that by telling the audience, "I don't want to kill any of my ex-boyfriends, I just want them to suffer a little bit." She also complained that she split her black leather pants before her set and that dudes have it too easy.
Kramer comes from the TV series One Tree Hill, and she's already ascending country radio with "Why Ya Wanna." She's a cheerful singer with tunes such as "What I Love About Your Love" and "I Feel a Good Time Comin' On." On a breezy Saturday night in Las Vegas, one night prior to the ACM Awards, she's not the only one who feels that way.
View photos from both nights of the Fremont Street Experience.