Earlier this summer, country music star Eric Church hinted at plans for a Nashville residency at his soon-to-open bar, Chief’s, located in the bustling Lower Broadway district. Tuesday night gave fans a tantalizing taste of what's in store.
As the 2023 Artist-in-Residence for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Church put on an intimate multimedia showcase at the CMA Theatre, hinting at the vibe his Chief’s residency might adopt. Sharing with Rolling Stone in July, Church had expressed the desire for a show that touches on personal elements, from the tragic 2017 Route 91 festival shooting in Las Vegas to memories of his late brother.
True to his word, the evening bore an emotional charge. An unreleased track, “Why Not Me?” commemorated the Vegas victims. Additionally, country legend Vince Gill made a surprise appearance to honor Church's late brother, Brandon, with “Go Rest High on That Mountain”—a song inspired by the passing of Gill's own sibling.
Church's affection for his family was further underscored with a heartfelt performance of "Holdin’ My Own."
Church's Setlist: Classics and Controversies
Although he steered clear of "Drink in My Hand," Church ensured fans weren’t left wanting.
Classic hits like “How ‘Bout You,” “Smoke a Little Smoke,” and “Springsteen” were part of the setlist. Each song was artfully prefaced with a montage of soundbites and video snippets, projected on a retro-style television placed strategically on stage.
Among these clips was a notable voicemail from Church’s once-label boss, Mike Dungan, discussing a 2014 controversy involving a Taylor Swift video teaser. However, as much as the clips reinforced Church's image as the enfant terrible of Nashville, it was his stellar voice, guitar mastery, and the narrative thread that truly cemented his rebellious status.
A standout was "Mr. Misunderstood," with its eclectic tempo and lyrical nods to music icons. Country aficionado Robert K. Oermann aptly described the evening as “a theater piece,” drawing parallels to Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway run.
Comparisons between Church and Springsteen are not misplaced; both are known for immersive performances that foster a deep connection with audiences. On this particular night, Church achieved that through meticulous detailing rather than sheer spontaneity.
Fans can further explore Church's journey with the exhibit "Eric Church: Country Heart, Restless Soul" at the Country Music Hall of Fame, running until June 2024. As for those lucky enough to secure tickets, Church’s second Artist-in-Residence show is set to dazzle tonight.