Country star Eric Church dedicated a portion of the opening performance of his two-night stand at the Sprint Center on Friday to the music of Queen.
The audience of 15,000 sang along to interpretations of Queen’s rock oldies. The unexpected covers are in keeping with the artist who straddles the increasingly hazy line between country and rock.
The North Carolina native’s Double Down Tour, a trek of two-night stands at arenas and amphitheaters with little overlap in songs, is intended to showcase Church’s expansive range.
Church and his six-piece backing band covered a lot of musical territory in the nearly three hours he spent on the industrial chic-style stage.
Since performing material from his debut album at a free afternoon show at Santa-Cali-Gon Days in Independence as a unruly upstart in 2006, Church has become a star, partly by refusing to water down his sound.
By remaining true to a hard-rocking country attack, Church has cultivated an image as an ornery country outlaw.
While Friday’s concert featured standard country tropes such as patriotic messages, frequent autograph sessions and references to Jesus, Church also waved a marijuana-themed flag, took generous swigs from whiskey bottles and proudly proclaimed his love of rock and roll.
The opening selection “That’s Damn Rock & Roll,” a song that references Elvis Presley, is one of several compositions Church performed that double as roll calls of his heroes.
He crooned that it’s “funny how a melody sounds like a memory” on a jubilant reading of his 2012 crossover hit “Springsteen.”
After singing “Record Year,” a song about recovering from heartbreak by spinning albums by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Willie Nelson, Church insisted that “music is still the thing that drives the soul.”
Church’s latest inspiration is the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After saying that he saw the 2018 film for the first time earlier in the week, he and the outstanding vocalist Joanna Cotten belted out Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”
Church didn’t bring out his band for the encore. After delivering his statement of purpose “Mistress Named Music,” he interpreted touchstone material by artists including Van Morrison and Tom Petty before landing on an entirely appropriate rendition of Queen’s rousing “We Are the Champions.”
Church and all his 15,000 fans at the marathon concert were indisputable winners.
Set list: That’s Damn Rock & Roll; Desperate Man; How ‘Bout You; Mr. Misunderstood; I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry; Cold One; Over When It’s Over; Round Here Buzz; Drink In My Hand; Carolina; Homeboy; Creepin’; Talladega; Hangin’ Around; The Outsiders; The Snake; Knives of New Orleans; Record Year; Monsters; Pledge Allegiance to the Hag; Jack Daniels; Higher Wire; Mixed Drinks About Feelings; Another One Bites the Dust; Fat Bottomed Girls; Smoke a Little Smoke; Give Me Back My Hometown; The Hard Way; Keep On; Like a Wrecking Ball These Boots; Springsteen; Mistress Named Music/Stand By Me/And It Stoned Me/Can’t You See/Stuck in the Middle with You/Candle in the Wind/Good Hearted Woman/Mary Jane’s Last Dance/We Are the Champions