Splice Magazine

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Eric Church “Doubles Down” in Detroit



Eric Church © John Swider

Detroit,Michigan (Feb 16,2019)

Eric Church was on stage at Little Caesars Arenas in Detroit, Friday and Saturday a long time. A good long time. Over 6 hours when combining both nights, along with a full set list of 68 songs, medleys notwithstanding . The stars performance left a mark on the city and his fans for all to remember and not soon to be duplicated. The country super-star has never hides the fact that he aspires to be an epic live performer the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam or even Paul McCartney, each who carefully design their live performances for maximum exposure. But Church does things differently and it works to keep his fans engaged throughout each show.

Church has designed the “Double Down Tour” so that no two shows will be exactly alike which allows the fans to get a unique experience at each. Fridays performance had a meandering, seat of the pants feel where song placement could have been questioned. Even though he announced “Its kick-ass time” before “Monsters”, then promised “from here to the end, I’m gonna’ give you everything I’ve got” before party favorite “Jack Daniels”, Church never really seemed to cut loose. In his defense, Fridays concert was broadcast live on SiriusXM, and many in attendance felt that the live feed was a major deciding factor on Church’s perceived restraint.

Eric Church © John Swider

That’s not to say the show didn’t have an abundance of solid moments by any means. Following what he announced to the crowd as a “ tiring afternoon, fourth birthday party for his youngest son, Hawk,” Church and his six-member band offered up a stunning assortment of hits off his six studio albums. An onslaught of “How ‘Bout You”, “Mr. Misunderstood”, “The Outsiders”, “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag” and ”Desperate Man” led the way with couple tour firsts “Hell on the Heart” and “Three Year Old” mixed in.  Not to be left out of the mix, fabulous backup singer Joanna Cotton joined Church for a stunning duet of The Bands, “The Weight” and “Mixed Drinks About Feelings” which brought the crowd to their feet.

Gracious and friendly throughout the show, Church always does his best to get up close and personal with his fans. With his guitar strapped to his back like a warrior would carry his weapon, he often roamed the ramps jutting out from the stage that encapsulated the general admission pit. During an extended performance of his hit “Record Year”, Church often stopped as he wandered the runways and signed album covers and vinyl records that his fans had with them. Not right in front or close to the main stage, but all along the meandering route. The scene repeated itself once again during “These Boots”, which found Church autographing boots instead of vintage vinyl, a true testament to the feelings this man has towards his fan base.

Church definitely knew where he was Friday night by recalling early trips into the Motor City to perform at the smaller venues such as the Crofoot and Coyote Joes as he built his brand. He mentioned Detroit rock Icon Bob Seger by declaring that “ There’s nobody in my career that’s done more for me than when Bob took us out as his opening act” before launching into the Seger classic “Roll Me Away”, which, again, had the complete venue up on their feet singing right along. The spectacle continued right through the encore where Church paid homage to Motown with a rousing medley starting of with his own “Mistress Named Music” then rolling through bits of the the Isley Brothers’ “This Old Heart of Mine,” the Commodores’ “Nightshift,” the Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go,” Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” Temptations’ “My Girl,Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” and the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There.”

Eric Church © John Swider

Fridays show was epic by every measurable standard; Three hours of Eric Church on stage, 34 songs, rousing sing-a-longs, a Motown and Bob Seger tribute along with unbridled energy and enthusiasm. It doesn’t get any better than this does it?

As Little Caesars Arena filled to capacity for night two of Eric Church’s “Double Down Tour”, there was a different feeling in the air from Friday. The buzz was louder and the energy of the crowd was evident. Even the on-hand security could be heard talking about the difference in feel between the two nights. When Church made his stage appearance at 8:30 under white spotlights for “Drowning Man”, the crowd came to their feet and remained standing until intermission. At first glance Church seemed more relaxed and at ease than he did during the Friday performance. Was it because tonights show wasn’t being broadcast live and he had the restraints removed or was there something else? We will never know but a quick glimpse into his after show nightlife might have rendered a few clues, when at the conclusion of “Country Music Jesus” he exclaimed, I was up ‘till 4:00AM with some friends and Jack Daniels, and I’m ready to go, are you?”

In comparison to Friday, Church’s opening set list only contained one carry over, “Hangin’ Around”. With musical library as vast and diverse as his, it’s testament to Church that he can literally change his entire set and then add in hits “Talladega”, “Creepin”, “Hippie Radio” and “Homeboy” to an already stacked playlist. With subtle set changes such as these he can craft shows with dynamic, and sometimes conceptual, arcs, an ebb and flow that hits its peaks at all the right time and keeps fans engaged throughout. This was very noticeable during a run to intermission of “Homeboy”,the bluesy up tempo “Hanging Around”, “Drink in My Hand” and  finally culminating with “Mistress Named Music” medley of Bob Seger classics.

Eric Church © John Swider

After a well-deserved intermission, Church returned for undoubtedly the best performance many had ever witnessed. Twenty songs of energy infused emotion that touched the soul of each person in LCA. ”Solid”, “Give Me Back My Hometown”, “Record Year”, “Desperate Man” and “Kill a Word”. Most artists would sell it all to have hits such as these in their musical library. Eric Church, first five songs of his SECOND set Saturday night. And the energy and fun continued with “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag” then “Jack Daniels” which had Church backstage doing shots of Jack Daniels from one of his own signature bottles, then handing the empty off to a lucky fan. Signing autographs on classic LPs during “Record Year” or fans boots during “These Boots”, Church was confident and in total control. So sure of his performance he boldly announced, “ If you want me to play until tomorrow, I will” and the crowd roared with their approval as the opening chords of mega-hit “Springsteen” filled the arena.

As the night concluded with a perfect encore of “Holdin’ My Own”, “Those I’ve Loved” and the Jackson Browne classic “The Load-Out/Stay”, I was left to ponder “What else Eric Church could have done to improve on tonights show”?. It had energy,emotion,fan interaction and some fantastic music from a true world-class entertainer. After I thought about it a few more seconds, the answer was crystal clear,not a thing.

Eric Church’s “Double Down Tour” is an anomaly in the entertainment world that shouldn’t be missed. Church has put his heart and soul into this tour and it shows in his performances. Two distinctly different shows in two nights. Six hours on stage and close to 70 song selections. If you don’t believe Eric Church is one of the best performers/entertainers in music, I’m here to tell you otherwise. If you want a night to remember, buy tickets to Eric Churchs’ “Double Down Tour”, it will be the best entertainment investment you’ll make this year.

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Eric Church

Little Caesars Arena