Eric Church has made abundantly clear his respect and reverence for Bruce Springsteen. Tuesday night at the Sprint Center, Church gave a crowd of more than 18,200 the kind of show Springsteen would be proud of.
For more than three hours, including a 20-minute intermission, Church and his six-person band delivered more than three dozen songs, plumbing a catalog that comprises five studio albums and goes back more than 10 years.
They opened with “Mistress Named Music,” a track from his “Mr. Misunderstood” album, released in November 2015. By show’s end, they would perform the album in its entirety. With assistance from a 20-member choir from the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts, they turned “Mistress” into a fiery gospel anthem. It was a sign of things to come: a steady gust of dynamic and cathartic performances.
The stage was a large, all-black platform with a runway that circled the large crowd in the pit. Above the crowd, a four-sided video screen beamed live images to fans in all four quadrants of the arena, including those behind the stage, which was open at the back. Aside from regular flurries of spotlights, from the stage and from the arena’s rafters, there were no pyrotechnics or visual gimmicks. This evening, Church, the band and the songs were the primary and sole attractions.
Church is a seasoned live performer, one who knows how to stoke a crowd and keep it on the verge of frenzy, like name-dropping the Chiefs a few times and yelling “Kansas City” often.
All night, he remained engaged with the large crowd, shaking hands and sharing beverages with those up front. During “Jack Daniels,” he disappeared to a bar-like setting underneath the stage to share shots of whiskey with some fellow barflies. During “These Boots,” he collected several boots from those audience members who were holding them a loft, and used them as props.
He was singing to a crowd primed for a raucous time. There were numerous loud and feverish sing-alongs, especially during hits like “Drink in My Hand,” “Record Year,” “The Outsiders,” “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag” and “Give Me Back My Hometown,” which aroused one of the loudest responses of the night.
On several numbers, including “That’s Damn Rock ’n’ Roll,” “Homeboy,” “Chattanooga Lucy” and “Kill A Word,” Church got some soulful vocal backup from Joanna Cotton.
Throughout the show, he shared the spotlight with his band, giving them space to show off their prowess on lead and slide guitar, bass, keyboards and banjo.
There was some redundancy in sounds, which is usually the case when a show spans more than three hours and 38 songs. But Church dabbles in enough styles to keep things, from hard rock, soul, and Southern rock to gospel, country and country-pop.
He ended his second set with his biggest hit, “Springsteen,” which included an opening snippet of Springsteen’s hit “Dancing in the Dark.” The ovation and sing-along were frenzied, from start to finish.
Church returned for a three-song encore, which he performed solo-acoustic. He ended with “Those I’ve Loved,” an introspective ballad about appreciating the people you’ve loved and lost as you go through life, people who have made him “the man I am today.”
His reverence for Springsteen aside, that’s a man who has fashioned and earned his own reputation as a top-rate performer who can fill and rock an arena for more than three hours.
Mistress Named Music; That’s Damn Rock ’n’ Roll; The Outsiders; Knives of New Orleans; Drink in My Hand; Carolina; How ‘Bout You; Livin’ Part of Life; Cold One; Round Here Buzz; Mr. Misunderstood; Talladega; Like a Wrecking Ball; Pledge Allegiance to the Hag; Smoke a Little Smoke. Intermission. Ain’t Killed Me Yet; Guys Like Me; Lotta Boot Left to Fill; Record Year; Homeboy; Chattanooga Lucy; Two Pink Lines; Kill a Word; Young and Wild; Over When It’s Over; Devil, Devil; Give Me Back My Hometown; Jack Daniels; Before She Does; Mixed Drinks About Feelings; Creepin’; Three Year Old; Keep On; These Boots; Dancing in the Dark/Springsteen. Encore: Holding My Own; Sinners Like Me; Those I’ve Loved.