Eric Church Transcends at 2018 Taste of Country Festival
Eric Church proved once again why he's one of the top touring acts not only in country music, but across all genres on the second night of the 2018 Taste of Country Music Festival on Saturday night (June 9).
Church took the stage amid the resplendence of the natural amphitheater at Hunter Mountain in upstate New York just after 9:45PM on Saturday night, and he and his band delivered an incendiary set that was a perfect marriage of songwriting, musicianship and pure entertainment value.
Playing to a sold-out crowd, Church let the fans know this was going to be a bold night of musical adventure from the first song, kicking off his set with "Mr. Misunderstood." That song's mix of plaintive acoustic balladry and breakneck rock, coupled with Church's penchant for lyrics that pack emotional and intellectual depth, established a flight plan for the evening's performance.
Over the next two hours, Church and his musicians delivered a scorching, yet nuanced set that drew on songs from across his career, including, "Smoke a Little Smoke" — which segued into a jam on Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" as a further ode to the "smoke" in question — "The Outsiders," "Drink in My Hand," "Round Here Buzz," "Creepin'" and "Like a Wrecking Ball," offering up such a wide array of different moods and styles that it was like several different concerts in one.
Was it a country show? Absolutely. Arena rock? That, too, with a light show and elaborate staging to rival any rock act on the road. Americana? No doubt about it. Metal? Unmistakably. When those different styles came together at certain musical junctures to create musical tension, the music Church and his band were making virtually defied categorization. Metalcana, anyone?
Church addressed the crowd several times in his low-key manner, talking at length near the mid-show point about how certain songs help to take a show to the next level. He used those remarks to introduce "Jack Daniel's," warning the show would be an "out of control party for the rest of the night" — and from the looks of the audience and its collective reaction, many fans were destined to share in the song's rueful lament, "Jack Daniel's kicked my ass again last night," on Sunday.
Church dug deep into his catalog during the back half of the show, mixing album cuts including "Chattanooga Lucy," "Mixed Drinks About Feelings" and "These Boots" with more familiar radio hits, including "Give Me Back My Hometown," "Homeboy" and "Talladega." Church ventured out into the crowd during "Record Year" before closing with "Springsteen," getting the entire crowd to sing along to its chorus, leaving fans feeling uplifted before returning to deliver a solo acoustic encore performance of "Sinners Like Me." In all, Church and his band delivered a performance at ToC Fest 2018 that was uncompromising, audacious and almost defiant, and pulled it off in a way that no other band in country music could match.
Church's performance followed an earlier set from Justin Moore that was so packed with hits that it served as a constant reminder of how Moore is one of country music's most underrated acts. Moore delivered a strong show highlighted by an amped-up cover of Ricky Skaggs' "Honey Open That Door," which demonstrated once again that Moore is one of country music's strongest live singers.
Moore and Church topped off a jam-packed day of hits from a cross-section of some of country music's biggest artists and up-and-coming rising acts. Sasha McVeigh, Jordan Davis, Ashley McBryde and Rodney Atkins gave the fans at ToC Fest a broad cross-section of styles from different eras, from classic hits to country's cutting edge.
The 2018 Taste of Country Music Festival is slated to wrap on Sunday (June 10) with performances from James Barker Band, Danielle Bradbery, Montgomery Gentry, LeAnn Rimes and headliner Sam Hunt.
Country Music Tours Hitting the Road in 2018