Eric Church

PPG Paints Arena Pittsburgh, Pa. April 4, 2019

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

By all accounts, Eric Church had a pretty good weekend in Pittsburgh. On Friday night, he celebrated his 42nd birthday with 15,000 people and on Saturday his parents were part of another sellout. As promised, he delivered a different setlist each night of the Double Down tour. He said on Saturday: If you were here last night, you know what you’re in for. If you’ve seen me before you know what you’re in for. We’re gonna play a lot of songs and we’ll be here for a while. He made good on his promise, delivering 35 songs by accessing all six of his studio albums with 2015’s Mr. Misunderstood getting the lion’s share of the load with eight. In contrast with his understated opening where he walked out nearly invisible in a black leather jacket, the stage production was not as subtle as he performed in front of large video screens on a massive stage with a circular ramp. That left ample pit space for adoring fans known as the Church Choir. The big production was fitting as Church proved himself to be not only one of country’s great arena rockers, but one of music’s best as well. For the first third of the set he showcased himself to be a very able guitarist on both acoustic and electric. He took the lead role on “Country Music Jesus” and delivered an adept solo. He spent a lot of time signing albums, boots and hats for members of the Church Choir packing the pit. He said, “When I was here in 2009, we played Mr. Smalls (a converted church) and there were not many people there. We’ve seen 30,000 here in two days. Church has tailored some of his sets on the tour to feature local references and preferences. He tipped his hat to a local doo wop outfit The Jaggerz and performed their signature hit “The Rapper.” His first set closer medley was all Springsteen to celebrate the city’s notoriously strong work ethic. The previous evening featured Billy Joel’s workingman’s anthem” Allentown.” The intermission was queued by a 20-minute countdown clock which revealed many people not leaving their seats. He kicked of the second set with a scorching version of “The Outsiders”

Backing vocalist Joanna Cotton played an integral role in providing extra horsepower, especially in the second half with stint on “Record Year” and a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “Thing Called Love.” Her vocals are a mix between Janis Joplin’s legendary volume and Adele’s finesse.

The three-song encore of course included his career maker, “Springsteen” and ended with a cover of Jackson Browne’s “The Load Out/Stay” in another tip of the cap to classic rock. Even after a hard rocking three hours and a clock that was near the midnight mark, a lot of people looked like they were reluctant to leave their seats.