Eric Church


By Adam Lucas

ROGERS, AR—And to think we almost never had a show in Arkansas.

Thursday night’s stop at the Walmart AMP wasn’t on the original slate of Outsiders Revival tour dates. Eric Church had never played in Rogers in his career. But the inquiries kept coming for the summer of 2023, and finally it was decided—the tour could begin the weekend in Rogers before starting a two-night Texas swing. 

Thank goodness they added the date. Otherwise we would have missed Church doing a shot while calling the hogs after finishing “Round Here Buzz,” while University of Arkansas head basketball coach Eric Musselman stood in the crowd pumping his fist. 

The amazing thing about the moment was that it felt like everyone in the sellout crowd of over 10,000 knew what was about to happen before it ever occurred. Of course Eric Church was about to call the hogs. Of course it was time to raise their hands in the air and shout “Whooooooooo” in unison. 




There may be someone in the state of Arkansas who isn’t a Hogs fan. But they weren’t in the crowd on Thursday night. And even with tomorrow ostensibly a workday, this was an early arriving bunch, as the lawn was full well before the night’s openers—Ray Wylie Hubbard and Midland—took the stage. 

Their commitment was admirable, because it was a sweltering day and evening in northwest Arkansas. By the time he was a third of the way through his set, during “Mistress Named Music,” Church had a cold towel wrapped around his neck. 

It was a day to take it easy. Which of course he absolutely, positively did not do. He added another new song for the first time on the non-festival portion of this tour. This time it was “The Outsiders,” and as Church said, “You’d think this wouldn’t be the first time for this song on the Outsiders Revival Tour, but it is.”

And by the time he blitzed through one of the best renditions of “Smoke A Little Smoke” on this tour, he was visibly breathing heavily. You think it was hot in the crowd? Imagine you’re on the stage, under those lights, putting everything into every song.

The crowd was appropriately appreciative. They’d lobbied for this show, they got it, and this was a night that could have only happened in Arkansas. Only here would a big ol’ Arkansas bug land directly on Church’s chest during “Cold One,” who was so wrapped up in the performance that he missed it entirely. Don’t worry—guitar tech MJ Sagraves came to the rescue, swatting it away as he swapped guitars after the song.

Only here would Church change the colors mentioned in “Give Me Back My Hometown” to “red and white,” another Hogs reference. It was obvious Church loved the college atmosphere; he could have closed the night after “Springsteen,” but simply couldn’t leave before giving them just one more. As he has put it often on this tour, “Holdin’ My Own” is his favorite song. 

That was the finale on Thursday, which was perfect. Because down in the pit were Jeff and Amy Johnson. That’s not unusual; after all, it was their sixth time seeing Eric Church since 2017. They’re from Tulsa, about a two-hour drive away, so when the Rogers show was added, of course they had to make the journey.

This time, though, something was different. This time, their three daughters—Cally, Rachel and Brook—were with them for the very first time. It had been a long time coming. 

In the summer of 2011, over a decade ago, the girls wanted a treehouse. Every day after work, Jeff would come home and work on the treehouse. Amy would set up the speakers, the girls (at that time, they were three, 10 and 11 years old) would play in the backyard, and Jeff would measure and hammer and saw. The Chief album had just been released, and every single day they listened to every single song. 

“We were all hooked,” Jeff says. “And we will forever connect the memories of that whole album to the memories of that treehouse.” Since then, Church has been the artist that everyone in the family can agree upon; on vacation in New Orleans five years ago, the girls immediately referenced “Knives of New Orleans,” and they belted out “Screams across the Ponchartrain” as the family quite literally crossed the Ponchartrain.

Thursday was the first time Cally, Rachel and Brook had seen Church live. So you probably understand how special it was for them to hear five songs off that album during the concert, including the new verse to “Springsteen,” which all three girls singled out as a highlight in the minutes after the show. 

But it was another moment that was unforgettable for Jeff. His girls might be too old for the treehouse now. But he got to watch and sing along to “Holdin’ My Own” with all of them.

“It was amazing,” he said about the finale. “I got to see it with one arm wrapped around my baby and one arm around my girls.”

And that’s exactly why Eric Church came to Arkansas.