Eric Church


By Adam Lucas

DETROIT—Eric Church’s tour bus pulled into the back loading dock parking area of Pine Knob Music Theatre and found…nothing.

It was June of 2019. Bob Seger was wrapping up a storybook career that had made him one of Detroit’s most beloved musical icons, playing one final series of shows at Pine Knob. Church had to be there, because his connection to Seger runs deep.

That bond began in 2006, and Church had just been, as he put it on Friday, “vehemently kicked off” the Flatts tour. The very next phone call he received was from Bob Seger. “You can’t tour with them,” Seger told him, “but you could tour with us.”

The artists have been connected ever since, which is why Church made the pilgrimage to the amphitheater roughly 45 minutes outside of Detroit in 2019. He expected to find a bustling scene. It was Seger’s last shows! Buses! A busy backstage! 


“There were no other buses because everyone else was local,” Church said. “So I was the only bus here. About 7 o’clock this red convertible comes through the gate and parks beside our bus. Out jumps Bob Seger, who had just drove himself, by himself, to his last show ever at a place where the address is 33 Bob Seger Dr. It was so unassuming and rock and roll. We got to hang before the show for an hour or so and just kick it. It’s one of my favorite memories, talking with Bob just moments before he plays his last show in Michigan.”

That night in 2019 led to this night in 2023, as Church—clad in a Bob Seger t-shirt—once again played through a stifling virus and turned in a second straight epic night of the Outsiders Revival Tour.

A packed crowd got an evening with multiple highlights, featuring an eight-song Seger medley. “We’re only doing this one time ever,” Church told the crowd. “Let’s try it.”

As he moved into the final song of the medley—“Night Moves,” of course—Church grinned. “I went to an Eric Church show,” he said, “and a Bob Seger concert broke out.”

That’s what he had to say in order to pay homage. But this was every bit a Church show, with several other chill-inducing moments. Opening act Ashley McBryde returned to the stage to duet on “Mixed Drinks About Feelings,” leading the headliner to salute her by tweaking the final phrase, “Turn on the neon light/You’re lucky you got to hear Ashley McBryde sing tonight.”

It was exactly what the Pine Knob throng needed. This was very much a bar crowd in an amphitheater. They arrived early, they stood the entire show even during some occasional rain that didn’t seem to bother the diehards on the lawn, and they were still tailgating after the concert in the parking lot at midnight. This was the kind of crowd where the red-jacketed security guard nearest you might have been a middle-aged or slightly older gentleman who perhaps went to a few Seger shows himself in his day, and now knew every single word to every song Church sang and occasionally fist-bumped you after a particularly rocking anthem. That, folks, is Pine Knob.

We’re two shows in to a series of nights that have felt every bit like the revival they promised to be. Already, the tour is starting to develop a personality. “Chattanooga Lucy” is the opener, but it’s “Heart On Fire” that really feels like the kickoff. That was once again on Friday when the crowd really took over, roaring, “A turned up radio” in a way that probably worked better to solve Church’s virus than the “whiskey and a steroid” he told them he’d been taking.

That enabled him to play deep into the night and once again make some alterations to his planned set list. After “Holdin’ My Own,” every member of the band had already left the stage, but he didn’t feel it was time to go just yet. “One more,” he said to the crew waiting in the wings to pack up the tour and motor it to Cleveland. And he made an on-the-fly adjustment again, tuning his guitar to give the crowd an unplanned solo acoustic version of “Sinners Like Me,” one that completely captivated everyone from the kid in the cowboy hat on his dad’s shoulders in the second row of the pit all the way up to the teenager in the American flag onesie near the back of the lawn.

It was unscripted. It was perfect for Pine Knob. And it was very, very rock and roll.