Eric Church, Ascend Amphitheatre, Nashville – Gig Review

Nashville was host to a truly special night on Thursday, with the grand opening of a brand new music venue, the Ascend Amphitheatre, being christened by a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Eric Church perform a completely acoustic set. As
Eric put it to the audience: ‘you ain’t never gonna see this again’.

Aside from the songs themselves, what impressed me most was the stunning vocals and instrumentation from Eric. Everyone knows that he’s one of the finest artists in country music at the moment, but this is often down to the sheer passion he gives to his music and the depth of his song writing. However, in an acoustic set, you can’t be left wanting vocally, and Eric certainly didn’t disappoint, showing the crowd the full array of his magnificent raw country repertoire.
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After opening with ‘Smoke A
Little Smoke’ and ‘Talladega’ Eric took the time to greet the crowd, admitting that aside from those two songs, he had no idea what he was going to play. This was part of the magic of the show, since it meant that songs which are rarely ever played live got an outing, and songs like ‘Springsteen’, which are staples of his show got left out. This lack of a plan also allowed for crowd requests, as well as humorous moments where Eric would invite individual members of his band up on stage, but not tell them what he was going to play!

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Eric with guitarist Jeff Cease

Whilst he played a few songs from his albums ‘Chief’ and ‘The Outsiders’, it was fantastic to see that he actually dedicated a significant portion of the show to some of his older album tracks, such as ‘What I Almost Was’ and ‘Living Part Of Life’. When he did play his more well known numbers, the acoustic nature of the show gave rise to some wonderful, and interesting, musical arrangements, such as during ‘Cold One’ where he brought Jeff, his lead guitarist, onto the stage and lead an almost improvised jam to complement the very twangy nature of the song’s instrumentals.

A highlight of the show for me was ‘Keep On’, one of Eric’s most aggressive songs, and one that is my favourite track from ‘Chief’. Whilst it is one of the songs that should have a big rock sound on the surface, the rhythm section of Eric’s band came on to complement the guitar, and the simple combination of a maraca, bass guitar and acoustic guitar was absolutely wonderful in giving the song incredible texture and giving it a completely new arrangement compared to how it sounds on record.

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To cap off a truly unique event, Eric introduced a brand new song ‘Three Year Old’, inspired by his son, who loves fishing more than anything. After telling a cute story of his son throwing the rod and tackle box into the water, Eric proceeded to sing an adorably intimate song, describing the ways in which becoming a father has changed him, and taught him so much about life.

This gig was the perfect way to open what is a fantastic new venue, with wondrous views of the Nashville skyline appearing over the stage as the sun sets. The only problem is, that the venue will never have a gig better than this, and the sad, yet humbling thing is, neither will I. I feel so fortunate to have been able to attend such an incredible, perfect, and raw show, and it is safe to say that this show was in a completely different league to anything I’ve seen before, and I’ve seen some fantastic performers, from Bruce Springsteen to Elton John. Thank you Eric, you are a genius.

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