Eric Church


By Adam Lucas

PHILADELPHIA—Over the course of the first 24 shows of the Outsiders Revival Tour, I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting the first-timers.

It is fun to meet the veterans, the ones who are up into double digits in their number of Eric Church shows. I’ve even met a few who are well into the triple digits, including one who was there on Saturday night in Philadelphia as Whiskey Myers opened for Church. I wish all of you could watch an Eric Church show with Marty, because he feels every chord and every word in exactly the way Church first intended when he decided to give this music thing a try. Marty is the guy who makes you feel like when you’re singing “Livin’ Part of Life” at the top of your lungs with him, that you both sound really freaking good.

So the long-timers are important. But eventually you need the new blood. That’s why it has been so fun on this tour to meet the fans like Corbin, a native of Maine who made the 12-hour drive with his parents just to see his first-ever Church show. And Bryn and Shannon, who just graduated from Widener University and immediately went into nursing. As they put it, “We are the actual definition of broke.”

But on this Saturday night, it was important enough to them that they secured tickets, put on their cowboy hats, tailgated in the parking lot and stood in line to rent chairs for the lawn…all for their first chance to see Eric Church. “We’ve seen a lot of country concerts here,” Bryn said, “but never Eric.”

On Saturday, they did. And they saw a great one, because no less an authority than Marty proclaimed it solidly in the top five of the in-person Church shows he has ever seen (remember, we’re talking about well into the triple digits in his case). From the moment the giant Philadelphia Eagles flag was raised above the stage, the night crackled. Not naming names here, but some Saturday night crowds can’t hold their Saturday. It’s just too much—the freedom all day to tailgate and, uh, prepare makes them incapable of still peaking by the time Church takes the stage around 9 p.m.

But this was Philadelphia. And Philadelphia, ladies and gentleman, is a professional. So they were ready to scream and sing and dance and chant E-A-G-L-E-S with only the slightest encouragement (or no encouragement at all). 

It was mesmerizing. I know this because my daughter was one of the first-timers on Saturday. She knows the songs. Follows the social media. Reads the stories (she better!). Hears her parents talk about all the crazy hijinks from this summer’s tour.

But had never been there in person until Saturday. And I just want you to know something about the people who put on this circus that we call the Outsiders Revival Tour: they are better people than musicians and crew members.

Our daughter is a junior in college. She’s closer to being finished than to starting, and from here I can see an eventual post-college life for her where she is…who knows? But probably something grown up, when what I really want her to do is go back to when her backpack was bigger than she was, and when I read books to her instead of her explaining things to me. 

For these 36 hours, though, she hung out with her parents. We ate cheesesteaks and climbed the Rocky steps and saw the Liberty Bell. We had one of those weekends you have with your kids that you think aren’t going to end (and sometimes in the moment they do seem endless). All then we went to Saturday night’s concert.

This has been a weird summer to be one of our kids, because my wife and I have been gone every weekend. We tell them the stories about the shows, but there have been events we missed and dinners where our spots have been empty at the table and sometimes we wonder—like we all do—if it is worth it. 

Church played “On the Road” for the first time a couple weeks ago, and we told them about it. The first thing our daughter said was, “That’s perfect for y’all. Because you’re on the road, too.”

He played it Saturday night and she was right there listening. My job is to watch what’s on the stage, but there were things I missed at this one, because I was watching her take in every note of every song, from ones she has heard me sing around the house like “Desperate Man” to ones that are eternal like “Some Of It.”

The music, as always, was incredible. The people were better. 

Those of you who have kids already know this and those of you who don’t will find out one day: the most amazing feeling in the world is when someone treats your kids like they’re special. From the moment we arrived at Freedom Mortgage Pavilion, without us giving anyone any of the above background, every single person we encountered treated McKay like her name was on the marquee, like she was the reason they’d come to work on Saturday. 

Darrell hooked her up with merch that will help her remember this night. Everyone in production, from Marshall to Brandon to Garrett to Amanda to Meesha to Pete to Todd, acted like her arrival was what they’d been awaiting the entire tour. In catering, Bob seemed to have prepared the entire dinner for her (plus dessert, of course). In the front of house, Gavin and Ben and Arnie might as well have hung every light and tuned every microphone expressly for her viewing and listening pleasure. On the stage, MJ and Sambo and Andy and Whitney and Stephcynie and fellow Vandy Commodore Roy took moments away from entertaining the thousands of people in front of them to pay attention to the one person next to them. 

I know you didn’t see any of this, and that it doesn’t give you the same chills it does me. But I want you to know that it happened, and that these are the people you’re supporting every time you buy a ticket.

And I also want you to know where that culture comes from. I want you to know that Katherine Church—who had never met McKay prior to Saturday night—spotted her on the side of the stage and immediately sprung into action. She moved her into a better spot to see and paused what she was doing—which is, you know, a tiny little matter of helping her husband put on the world’s best concert—to grab the highly sought after “ears” for McKay so she could hear better.

And then, after Eric Church had played 23 songs, after he had played one of what Marty said was the five best shows he’s ever seen, he walked off the stage. It can take hours for him to work through the adrenaline produced by one of these shows, to come down from the feeling of having thousands scream his name. He took his guitar off. Katherine was right there, and they started the same walk to the dressing room they’ve done thousands of times before, from tiny rooms in front of hundreds to stadium-record tens of thousands. 

But then they paused. And I watched from several feet away as they both gave McKay a hug, and chatted with her, and Eric complimented McKay on her CHIEF shirt, and our daughter had the best first-time Eric Church concert experience ever.

I gave it a couple beats and then walked up to McKay and raised an eyebrow. “I am trying so hard,” she said as her voice involuntarily raised an octave, “to be cool right now.”

She took a picture with her parents (thanks, JD), which maybe you understand is a big deal if you have college kids. Then we walked out together. 

“I get it,” she said. “Your entire summer makes so much sense now. I totally understand why you would want to do that as many times as you possibly could.” We talked about our three favorite moments from the night. All of them had one thing in common. “The people,” she said. “The fans we met and the people we met were so nice.” 

“Talladega” unexpectedly made it onto Saturday night’s set list. And it was perfect, because it could only be fitting that Eric Church could have the last word about an evening like this that could only happen at an Eric Church show, on this night, with these people.

“Like a storm, time rolls on

“You can’t hit pause, that’s just the deal

“Most days in life don’t stand out

“But life’s about those days that we all like.”