Thousands of the "Church Choir" faithful packed the Chumash Arena on Wednesday night for the opening of the Mid State Fair headlined by country music's last outlaw, Eric Church.
Complete with his trademark trucker hat and aviator sunglasses, the North Carolina native brought every ounce of energy and passion that has earned him one of the largest followings in country music.
The latest stop in his Blood, Sweat and Beers Tour, Church is in the midst of a rise that has taken Nashville and country music fans everywhere by storm. Church’s third studio album, Chief, was his first platinum album going #1 on the country charts and produced two #1 singles, “Drink in My Hand” and “Springsteen”.
The defiant “Country Music Jesus” began his 18-song set as Church stormed the stage with his trademark ball-cap and Aviator sunglasses, transitioning into fan favorites “Guys Like Me” and “Hell on the Heart.”
Before launching into the Merle Haggard tribute, “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag,” Church proclaimed to the raucous Paso Robles crowd that they would “burn this son bitch down to the ground!”
“Like a honey-bee beatin on my screen-door, I gotta little buzz and my head is sore,” Church croons to a cryptic Banjo twang that leads into his latest single, “Creepin.”
Despite his recent string of hits, the Sinners Like Me singer still includes songs from some of his earlier days including his first Top 10 hit, “Love Your Love the Most.”
Church enjoys one of the most dedicated fan-bases in all of music, in part, because he demands the audience engage with him during the show. At one point, Church calls on the crowd to “give me everything you got, cause I’m gonna give you everything I got!”
Leading the entire crowd in a back-and-forth karaoke contest, Church yells, “I’m ready to roll if you wanna, rock again” and without skipping a bit, the entire crowd completes the lyric yelling emphatically, “all you gotta do is put a drink in my hand!”
After performing the top 20 hit “Homeboy,” Church exists the stage with the show seemingly over. As thousands of the Church Choir yell out “Chief,” he returns to perform the hit that put his career on a new level, “Smoke a Little Smoke.”
Perhaps the sight of the night was the thousands of fans holding up their cowboy boots during Church’s performance of “These Boots.”
The finale began with Church playing the familiar chords of his biggest hit to date, “Springsteen.”
“This song is about how melodies and memories come together and every time I hear that song, I’m right back in that moment,” Church says, sharing the inspiration for the song that has vaulted him to a new level of notoriety.
During a recent appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, actor Vince Vaughan (Wedding Crashers) revealed that he plays “Springsteen” for his one-year old daughter.
“If you have a cellphone, I want everyone who has a cellphone to get it out right now because this is a moment,” Church says as he leads the crowd in the final sing-along of the night that was “like a soundtrack, to a July Wednesday night…Springsteen.”