Eric Church


By Adam Lucas


CLEVELAND—It takes 10 tractor-trailer trucks, 12 buses, and 77 people to put on the Outsiders Revival Tour.

There are some very long nights and some very, very long bus rides. Sometimes the showers in the venue run out of hot water. Sometimes the crew misses birthdays and anniversaries and kid ball games.

Every minute they’re doing it, every night away from home, is for that moment when it all comes together like it did late in Saturday night’s show when Eric Church and a crowd of 23,000 sang “Give Me Back My Hometown” at full volume, the bright lights in the Blossom Music Center shining down, those on the stage and those in the seats seeming to thrive off each other.

As the opening notes of “Hometown” began, friends in the crowd turned and clinked glasses. They already knew what was about to happen. This was a moment these people had earned the hard way. Pre-show traffic 45 minutes from Cleveland at a venue with only one two-lane road in and one two-lane road out meant that two hours before show time, it took a full hour to travel one mile.

“Is it always like this?” a Blossom security guard was asked.

“For the artists who can sell it out?” he said. “Oh yeah.”

But they sat, and they turned up the radio, and maybe they got out and stretched when the sitting got to be too much. But they never had a thought of turning around, because they knew what was coming. They were completely and fully committed. They wanted to be here.

Which is why they sang every word of Hometown at top volume. Church, in that moment, was mostly a very talented lead guitarist and a proud songwriter (somewhere Luke Laird, the co-writer, had chills and wasn’t sure why). Church gave them the first couple words of a verse and they took the rest. 

And Church grasped the importance of the venue, about what it means to have a crowd in this place be completely invested in someone the way they were in him. “This,” he told them, “is one of the coolest venues in America…it’s a fantastic place with fantastic people.”

His longtime manager, John Peets, grew up in the Cleveland area and came to numerous shows at Blossom as a kid. He saw James Taylor perform here, can still tell you exactly what the sound board looked like. He saw AC/DC here. He understood what it meant for an artist to sell every ticket in the place.

So you can be assured Church knew all the details about the Blossom Music Center, including the fact that the Michael Stanley Band set the total attendance record here in 1982. It was no coincidence, then, that one of the first things he told the packed house was, “We’re representin’ tonight,” as he pointed to his black Michael Stanley Band t-shirt. “This,” he told them, “is one of the coolest venues in America.”

Opened in 1968, it’s also one of the oldest venues on this tour, but it didn’t feel like it on Saturday. The Red Clay Strays and Ashley McBryde loosened them up, and then Church blew through a 24-song set that was the longest of the tour so far, including a four-song encore that he continues to adjust on the fly each night. Even with the traffic issues, it didn’t appear that a single person left before the final note of “Holdin’ My Own.” And why would you? You might miss something like this:

During that song, I watched as an older woman, arm around her husband, took a photo of the young couple in front of them, who had their arms around each other. The four people were strangers—or at least they had been. When the song was over, she tapped them on the shoulder, showed them the photo, and got their contact information to send it to them.

That’s what kind of night it was in Cuyahoga Falls. And if you were there, you will fully grasp the impact of this statement:

I would sit in twice the traffic absolutely anytime to get four minutes of those chills during a rendition like that of “Hometown.” That was the fuel for all 77 of the people on this tour to go home for a couple days, recharge, and get ready to do it again next weekend.

Take it from someone who has been to all three shows this weekend: each one has gotten better. But there’s more in the tank. Church hasn’t done a perfect show yet on this tour.

In other words: Charleston, rest up.