By Tad Dickens | 777-6474
Eric Church is having a rock star moment, but on Thursday night he remembered when the halls weren’t sold out.
In the middle of a rousing rendition of “Jack Daniel’s,” in which his beverage of choice “kicked his a– again last night,” he told the crowd at Roanoke Civic Center that he remembered playing in front of “about eight of you all” at the old Cattle Annie’s, in Lynchburg.
If those eight were in the room, they were hidden in the midst of 7,196 in the coliseum, a sold-out crowd, according to the civic center. And if they were there, he wanted to be sure that they come next time, along with all the new fans.
After kicking off his set with the grinding backwoods-metal of “Country Music Jesus,” the mid-tempo smack of “Guys Like Us” and pop-rock of “Hell On The Heart” — a quick tour of favorites from all three of his albums — Church wanted to share a pledge.
“I, Eric Church, promise to give you every ounce of what I’ve got till the show is over,” he said, to huge cheers.
He wanted the audience to give him all it had, too, and if they all did that, he said, “I promise you we’ll burn this son of a b—-to the ground.”
Showing he meant it, he kicked his band into “Pledge Allegiance To The Hag,” as in Merle Haggard — complete with a reference to “Sing Me Back Home” and guitar riffs from “Mama Tried.”
Church, whose latest album, “Chief,” is a million-selling crossover hit that has spawned a career-highlight single in “Springsteen,” kept the highly relatable material rolling before standing by himself about an hour in. With stage fog rolling around him, it was just Church, his guitar and a tenor with plenty of whiskey and smoke seasoning.
Then, it was easier to hear the big singalongs on “Like Jesus Does” and “Love Your Love The Most.” This was a crowd that knew its star’s work.
When Church played Jefferson Center in 2009, he didn’t sell out the 900-seat house. That was still an improvement over those eight or so at the Lynchburg venue.
But things can happen fast when you keep pumping out the hits, and as this reporter left to make deadline, Church’s band was kicking into “Drink In My Hand,” the other No. 1 hit from “Chief.” They might not have set the building on fire, but they were smoking.
Both opening acts had recent hits on the charts, too. Justin Moore, who opened for Blake Shelton at the same venue in February, got the crowd riled up with “Small Town U.S.A.” and “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away,” locking in with the crowd via guns, grandpas and butt-kicking.
First on the bill, Kip Moore played his biggest hit to date, “Somethin’ ’Bout A Truck,” and his most recent, “Beer Money.” The video for that song features onetime Roanoker Gordana Ban, who plays the waitress with the kiss like honey, while the singer had a little beer money.