April 27, 2018
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands
Eric Church was originally supposed to play Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands last September, but then a storm named Harvey came along and pressed pause on those plans. Friday night, Church more than made up for the delay.
“I know y’all have been waiting for this,” he told a packed house in The Woodlands. “But we’ve been waiting just as much as you have.”
Church didn’t disappoint from there on, banging out a 20-track, 100-minute set that more than showcased why he is not only one of the hottest acts in country music today, but why he appeals to a different crowd altogether. With all due respect to the Luke Bryans and Kenny Chesneys of the world – acts who are more than accomplished in their own regard – Church really gets the best of both worlds.
On one hand, he is universally regarded among the greatest singer-songwriters in country today, a throwback to an era when country musicians, you know, wrote their own music. On the other, he is almost a Bruce Springsteen type, a Middle America type who plays music for Middle America.
Sure, one could just use arguably his most noteworthy track, “Springsteen,” as evidence of his similarities with the Boss, but it really goes beyond that. Church, clad in about three American flags on Friday night before a raucous crowd in The Woodlands, is the embodiment of the American dream.
Like Springsteen, Church comes from humble roots. He struggled before reaching Platinum-selling heights, and in doing so, earned a certain cred one doesn’t just get overnight. So it makes sense that thousands gathered on Friday night to hear those tunes; Church didn’t disappoint.
Church doesn’t lack for hits, and he delivered them all on Friday night. He blared through radio hits like “Talladega,” “Smoke a Little Smoke” and “Drink in My Hand,” while devoting time to more current material. And this is where Church’s show gets interesting.
See, he isn’t really touring on a new album. Rather, his most current effort – Mr. Misunderstood – was released nearly three years ago. Fortunately, that record didn’t lack for hits either, so Church treated the audience to singles like “Record Year,” “Round Here Buzz,” “Kill a Word,” and the title track.
When Church makes it back to Houston is anyone’s guess. He’d be a perfect fit for an event like Austin City Limits Festival, which isn’t in Houston, but is certainly close enough. And aside from a recent live album, there isn’t much news regarding a new proper studio album.
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Either way, Church won’t have trouble filling up Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion or any other area venue the next time he comes to town. He’s holdin’ his own, and then some.
The Opener: Gonna be honest, only arrived in time for the headliner, but such is life when concerts take place in The Woodlands and Houston traffic is, well, Houston traffic.
So, How Was the Crowd?: An interesting mix, for sure. There were the diehard country fans of the Merle Haggard variety, and there were more the pop-country types there for Church’s more radio-friendly hits. And therein lies the appeal of Church the artist – he reaches country diehards and Luke Bryan types just the same.
Random Notebook Dump: Church didn’t play “Mixed Drinks About Feelings,” which was kind of a bummer … Props to Church for bringing that little fella on stage and signing his cowboy boots … The video packages that precede a Church show really tell you how far he’s come, from playing before half-empty honky tonks to filling up major venues such as he did on Friday night … It was a Friday night in The Woodlands for a country show; yep, it was pretty wild.