Eric Church kept fans on their toes from his opening note until the show ended.
A spotlight announced his entrance, although he was nowhere to be found. His heartbreaking and gentle rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” filled the space. A hush fell over the previously buzzing audience.
When Church finally walked on the stage, he was perfectly charming, wearing his signature black shades and a guitar slung over his shoulder with his nickname, “Chief,” written in rhinestones on the strap.
Church strummed his guitar and sang his 2015 hit “Mistress Named Music,” with minimal backup from the band, which allowed the audience to focus on his signature twang and rich voice.
Church, winner of five ACM and three CMA awards, played his “Holdin’ My Own Tour” without any supporting acts to a nearly packed Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on Friday night. It showed he can easily carry a concert for almost three hours.
The show’s pace quickened with the 2014 hit “The Outsiders,” after the two opening ballads. Church showcased his excellent guitar skills that matched his vocal talent and the band added traces of rock music that characterized the night.
Church reminded the audience that he is one of the most interesting country musicians in the business through his seamless blending of country and rock styles. He can sing a typical country ballad, then growl and expertly scream into the microphone. The gruffness in his voice was especially evident as he sang “Knives of New Orleans,” alongside talented vocalist Joanna Cotten.
Cotten’s voice displayed impressive range and beautiful tone. The audience roared each time she hit a high note.
Apart from a promise to the audience, Church did not waste time with chitchat. This tour is clearly centered on the music.
“If you give us what we’re going to give you, you’ll never forget this night in Spokane,” Church said.
Church’s band was as interesting as his voice, a refreshing element of any country tour. Jeff Hyde stole the show when his fingers flew across a banjo during the opening to one of Church’s earliest songs, “How ‘Bout You.”
The night’s pacing and theatrical effects kept the night engaging, too. The set list featured a healthy variety of emotional power ballads like the 2015 hit “Mr. Misunderstood,” and amusing odes to life’s more simple pleasure like “Drink in My Hand.” A 360-degree stage offered viewers an immersive experience from any seat in the arena.
“Like a Wrecking Ball,” a sensual ballad about a reunion with the love in his life, was the most impressive number of the night. The audience received a taste of Church’s deep and warm lower register, and guitar skills. They immediately sang the opening lines of the song as Church was surrounded by darkness and illuminated by only a spotlight: I’ve, I’ve been gone, I’ve been gone too long / Singin’ my songs on the road, another town / One more show then I’m coming home.
St. Patrick’s Day antics added humor to the latter half of the show when Church wrapped a green feather boa around his neck, and later donned a Jack Daniel’s Whiskey flag on his back as he sang “Jack Daniels” and took a shot of the drink with his crew backstage.
“From here until the end of the night, I’m going to turn this place into one of those little roadhouse bars,” Church said.
And he did.
The singer ended the night close to his fan’s hearts as he sang a song for his son titled “Three Year Old,” his favorite part of the show, and 2011 hit oozing with nostalgia, “Springsteen.”