Eric Church


By Adam Lucas 

ST. LOUIS—Saturday night, Eric Church kept a promise.

Following openers from Muscadine Bloodline and Travis Tritt, he was just minutes into his performance at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre when he told the crowd of 20,000, “By the end of this night, it will feel like you’ve been to a revival. My job is to take you there. And I plan to.”

Little did they suspect at the time how thorough the revival might be. This was by far the most eclectic setlist of the 11-date tour so far, and the St. Louis crowd got some extreme Church rarities. 

“Tennessee Jed,” originally a Grateful Dead song, had been on the setlist last night in Cincinnati as a possible encore, but a very tight curfew rule left it on the cutting room floor. It got a spot in the middle of Saturday night’s performance. 

“We sound checked it yesterday, and we decided, ‘Let’s play it,’” Church told the crowd. “This is the first time on this tour and the first time in years.” The first time in six years and just the second time ever, according to, which indicates the only other Church performance of the song at a conventional concert was in 2017 in Nashville.

After “Creepin’,” which has been a standard on this tour, he again dipped deep into the catalog, pulling out “Never Break Heart” from 2021. “St. Louis is going to get another song no one else might get,” he said. “I don’t know that we’ve done this one more than one or two times ever.” says he’s done it three times, all in 2021. But none of those included a trumpet solo from Emmanuel Echem, who is part of this tour’s three-member horn section. 

It was a nice reminder of the challenges in putting together a representative two-hour approximation of Church’s career. Hardcore fans are accustomed to the more recent three-hour shows. That’s never what this tour was intended to be. This year’s Church set is closer to two hours; cutting an hour off the length of the performance (to accommodate the openers) means you’re eliminating approximately a dozen songs every single night.

There are some that are stalwarts of the first third of this tour. But there’s no guarantee they will be there the next time you see him. “Bad Mother Trucker” is a lively part of the opening series of songs every night on this tour. But it’s entirely possible you might not see it at all in 2024.

This isn’t his version of a greatest hits package. It’s a snapshot of this particular moment in time, if what interests him and what excites him and what—most importantly—he feels will connect with the crowd. 

Here’s the thing: certain songs are everyone’s favorite. Find me someone who doesn’t enjoy the sing-along experience of “Springsteen” or “Give Me Back My Hometown” and I’ll find you a very, very casual Eric Church fan.

But every song is someone’s favorite, and the distinction is important. In that crowd of 20,000 was someone who was thrilled that “Never Break Heart” made it onto the setlist, because that’s their song with their people intend and including made it a perfect night for them.

On Saturday night, Church played “Knives of New Orleans” for just the fourth time on this tour, meaning it’s been part of barely a third of the shows. As the last notes faded, I thought to myself, “There should never be a show without that song.” And even as I write those words, I fully realize there is someone somewhere reading them who is thinking, “Nah, there are others I’d much rather hear.”

After a night like this one, there was only one way to close it—by finishing with “Hallelujah,” a song Church most famously performed twice at Red Rocks in 2016 and has dusted off just five times since then, and only once since 2019. 

In contrast to the more elaborate production on some of the other numbers, this one was just Church and a guitar. At full capacity, there are 13 people on the stage during most sequences of this tour. When it’s pared down to just one, it’s still an incredible moment.

And an awful lot like a revival.