NYC Spills Its Blood, Sweat, & Beer (with the help of Eric Church & Brantley Gilbert)

Eric Church
Blood, Sweat & Beer Tour
Featuring Brantley Gilbert
March 15, 2012
Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC

Eric Church brought his rowdy Blood, Sweat & Beer Tour to the concrete jungle of New York City on Wednesday night and his fans were ready to rock.  A long line of hundreds of fans lined the wall of the Hammerstein Ballroom on West 34th Street hours before the show.  The City’s weather was unusually warm for mid-March and it all made for an even rowdier and party atmosphere.  There were plaid shirts, cowboy hats, and boots galore …

I had a meet and greet with the opening act and rising country star, Brantley Gilbert.  I had never seen Brantley live, but have been listening to his “Halfway To Heaven” Album since its release.  Brantley was a soft spoken guy when I met him, but he was full of smiles and seemed to really enjoy meeting his fans backstage. 

Once he hit the stage, this soft spoken guy became a dynamic firecracker. 

The speakers exploded with “Boom” by P.O.D. as Brantley and his crew took the stage.  He took the mic and simply stated “let’s raise some hell”.  He ripped into a cover of Jason Aldean’s “My Kinda Party”, a song in which he actually wrote.  He flawlessly sang the song with passion and energy that rivaled Aldean’s own version.  He changed from song to song quickly without much chatter, but his stage presence, energy, and fist pumping had the crowd enticed throughout. 

After “Hell on Wheels”, he played a few rifts of Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive” as an intro for his biggest solo song to date: “Country Must Be Country Wide”.  The New York City crowd sang along word for word and Brantley responded by allowing us to sing the chorus at points.  Upon the finish of the bombastic song, the crowd gave him the first of his many standing ovations.  His response was “wow, you guys are bad ass”.

He got another standing ovation after his next song, which was another song he penned for Jason Aldean, the hip-hop/country anthem “Dirt Road Anthem”.  Brantley rapped the verses with perfection and showed great composure with the fast moving song.  He showed more admiration for the crowd as he stated “New York, ya’ll know how to throw down, I am impressed”. 

The rest of his set included his newest single, “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do”, which shows a softer side of the rowdy artist, followed by “Hell On An Angel”, “Take It Outside” and “Kick It In the Sticks”.  His last song is as much of a hard rock song as it is country.  He had the crowd fist pumping and bouncing as he pumped the lyrics through the microphone with gusto.  I was extremely impressed by his entire set.  So much so that I can almost guarantee that he is an act with extreme staying power and the potential to be head-lining shows himself in the near future. 

After a long wait, the main act was ready to hit the stage.  My only complaint with the night was the venue itself.  The Hammerstein Ballroom was extremely cramped and overcrowded, so much so that I would almost question whether they sold more tickets that the floor could handle.  But as for the actual performance, country music’s Chief was flawless.  He came out to the rousing “Country Music Jesus” and the show was off and running.

Eric had his typical look: trucker hat, aviator sunglasses, and a black shirt.  It took him a few years to find a look, but he has certainly found one.  Smoke, dry ice, an intense light show, and backdrop changes were all a part of the show, but it was the energy from Eric that really produced the excitement.  He ran through hit after hit, as well as plenty of his non-radio cuts such as “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag”, “Carolina”, “I’m Getting Stoned”, “Jack Daniels”, and “Livin’ Part of Life”. 

No matter the song, hit or album cut, the crowd seemed to know every word.  Eric changed instruments a few times, such as grabbing a banjo for the ferocious “Creeping” and sat down at a piano for the final song of his encore.  He slowed things down towards the end of the set as he sang 3 acoustic songs: “2 Pink Lines”, “Sinners Like Me”, and “I Love Your Love the Most”.  The latter, surprisingly, had the biggest response of the night and Eric allowed NYC to sing most of the song in unison back to him. 

After the acoustic set, he really raised the decibels as he performed his first #1 Billboard song, “Drink In Your Hand”.  Pyrotechnics flashed the stage as everyone raised their glasses along to the party anthem.  He didn’t slow down there as he followed it up with “Lotta Boot Left To Fill”.  Back to back high energy songs had Eric slamming his own chest, throwing middle fingers in the air, and feverishly pumping his fist.

The last two songs of his set before the encore, in my opinion, raised Eric to the A-list artist that he is now considered: “Homeboy” and “Smoke A Little Smoke”.  Each song had its own backdrop and guitar solo’s that perfectly placed to show emphasis on the mega-hits. 

He came back out after a brief absence with a two song encore which began with the heartfelt “Boots”.  The crowd responded with many people taking off their own boots and holding them in the sky.  It was a pretty awesome sight to see (see picture #2 above).  He then sat down at a piano and played the intro to his latest single “Springsteen”. 

The infectious song had most of NYC singing along, while others yelled out “BRUUUUUUCE”.  Eric had the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout and the entire show was fast moving, but packed with plenty of material.  Eric has certainly proven that he can headline his own tour as the venue was absolutely packed.  It has been quite a year for Eric and I expect his success to keep growing in the future. 


Brantley Gilbert

  1. My Kinda Party
  2. Hell On Wheels
  3. Country Must Be Country Wide
  4. Dirt Road Anthem
  5. You Don’t Know Her Like I Do
  6. My Kinda Crazy
  7. Hell On An Angel
  8. Take It Outside
  9. Kick It In the Sticks

Eric Church

  1. Country Music Jesus
  2. Guys Like Me
  3. Hell On the Heart
  4. Pledge Allegiance to the Hag (with Pancho & Lefty rifts)
  5. How About You
  6. Carolina
  7. I’m Getting Stoned
  8. Jack Daniels
  9. Living Part of Life
  10. Hungover and Hard Up
  11. Creeping
  12. Keep On
  13. 2 Pink Lines (Acoustic)
  14. Sinners Like Me (Acoustic)
  15. I Love Your Love the Most (Acoustic)
  16. Drink In Your Hand
  17. Lotta Boot Left To Fill
  18. Homeboy
  19. Smoke A Little Smoke
  20. These Boots
  21. Springsteen

Toby Keith Ends the 2011 CT Country Summer Concert Season with a Bang

Toby Keith
Locked & Loaded Tour
Featuring Eric Church and JT Hodges
Comcast Theater, Hartford, CT
September 16, 2011

Summer was clearly over on this cold mid-September night when the “Locked & Loaded Tour” rolled into Hartford, Connecticut.  This night would be the final night of the summer’s country music concerts series at the Comcast Theater (formerly known as the Meadows) and was arguably the best.  Despite the unusually cold temperature, the sold out crowd and jam packed lawn section was alive and rocking. 

I was fortunate, again, to score a meet and greet pass with Eric Church.  Eric has quickly shot up the list of my favorite singers and it has been a real pleasure to meet him twice in the past few weeks.  Despite all his energy and moxy on stage, he is a very humble and evel keel guy.  We spoke for a moment about the Tour and his upcoming single (which he hinted would be “Springsteen”).  I look for great things from Eric in the future.

I was able to take my seat, 5th row center stage, in time to catch JT Hodges.  JT had recently signed to Toby Keith’s record label and has served as the opening act along the Locked & Loaded Tour.  I did not know what to expect from him since I really only knew his single “Hunt You Down” but he showed a lot of potential.  He was at best when he was at the forefront of the stage with a microphone and interacting with the crowd rather than set back behind the microphone stand with his band.  Overall, he had a good sound and has some solid lyrics.  I look forward to his first cd release.  I was also able to meet him after his set and he was easily one of the nicest artists I have met to date. 

Eric Church came on stage with his patented avaitor sunglases and Von Dutch denim Trucker Hat.  He ripped into “Before She Does” and pumped his fist, pounded his chest, and shouted to the crowd for the next hour.  As I stated in my review two weeks ago, Eric has an unique performance style that combines swagger and bravado with a party style bad boy image. 

He changed his setlist up a bit and added a new fan favorite “Jack Daniels”, which a video clip is included down below.  The song is a humorous take on the morning after a night out drinking whiskey. 

Eric was energetic throughout, and really seemed to love when he was singing the new songs of his recent #1 album “Cheif”.  He actually stated to the crowd at one point, “thanks to you guys I had the #1 album in the world for two weeks. So Jay-Z and Kanye can kiss my rift!”  This comment is evident of who Eric Church is, an artist who does not care about taking on the music industry in the way he wants to. 

Eric was at his best on songs such as “Lotta Boot”, “Springsteen”, “Love Your Love the Most”, and “Gettin’ Stoned”, all of which sound nothing alike.  That is the beauty of Eric’s music, he never makes a similar song, but they are all country to the core – in his own gritty way.  Which is why Hank Williams Jr.’s “Country Boy Can Survive” fit so well into his set.  Eric is doing country music his own way and is surviving very well. 

He ended his set with the booming “Smoke A Little Smoke” and had the entire amplitheatre on his feet as the sprays of smoke dominated the stage behind Eric and his band.  I fully expect this man to be headlining his own tours very soon – it is just a matter of time.

For as much as Eric is on the rise and put forth a great performance, you could tell the majority of the crowd in Hartford that night came to see the headliner.  And just after 9:30 p.m., the lights went low and the big screen produced a short comedic sketch which pushed Ford Trucks, the sponsor for Toby’s tour.  Upon the end of the sketch, the first of a multitude of pyrotechnic M-80 blasts exploded and Toby walked to the front of the stage.  Dressed in his usual cowboy hat and a strange short sleeve aqua blue “Hawaiian” style button down shirt, Toby exploded into “Bullets in the Gun”. 

Toby was in playful mood that night as he was full of smiles, jokes, and lyric change-ups to make some of his songs more humorous.  On tracks such as “Just Talking About Tonight” and “I Love This Bar”, his lyrics were changed to lyrics of more jokingly suggestive sexual nature which the ladies in the crowd obviously enjoyed. 

Toby’s latest top 5 “Made in America” and a rarely sung single from the beginning of his career “Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You” were two of the highlights of this show.  Both songs were sung with deep passion, one for the Country he loves and one about a woman.  The notes Toby is able to hit on both songs are so far ranging that I would be surprised if any other singer in country music could hit them, besides maybe Ronnie Dunn.  It was really spectacular. 

However, the true highlight of the night for me was when Toby brought out fellow songwriter Scotty Emerick.  Toby and Scotty have been long time friends and have penned powerhouse singles together such as “Beer For My Horses” and “I Love This Bar”. 

On this night, Toby and Scotty went the way of the humorous “bus songs” they wrote together and had the crowd clapping along and laughing to two acoustic versions of “Weed With Willie” and “The Taliban Song”.  Both songs are hilarious takes on topics some might find “un-PC”, but for anyone who can take on a joke can really get a laugh out of.   I have always enjoyed Scotty Emerick’s writing and even some of his own recorded music, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him out there in the spotlight with the Big Dog.

Toby had to rush through the last couple songs of his set, probably since it was getting very late and there is an ordinance in Hartford.  There is usually a few minute period where the lights go dark and the convential encore happens.  Instead, he went right into “American Soldier” after singing “A Little Less Talk”.  I enjoy the darkness period where the crowd chants “USA” before this patriotic encore better, but Toby made it work nonetheless. 

Toby brought up a number of our Country’s military men and had them at the fore-front shaking hands with fans and standing alongside him in a proud and exhalted manner. As he sang “American Soldier” and the thunderous “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” alongside these soldiers, Toby reminded Connecticut that you should “never apologize for being patriotic”. 

The entire “Locked & Loaded Tour” show that night was phenomenal and truly showed that Toby Keith is still at the forefront of country music’s finest artists and performers, that Eric Church is on his way up to the top, and JT Hodges has real potential.  Sadly, the Connecticut Country Concert Season was over, but it ended at its highest point of the Summer. 


Toby Keith – Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You

Toby Keith with Scotty Emerick – The Taliban Song
Eric Church – Jack Daniels

Toby Keith – Should’ve Been A Cowboy

Toby Keith w/ Scotty Emerick – Weed With Willie 

Eric Church
1) Before She Does
2) How Bout You

3) Hell On The Heart
4) Drink In My Hand
5) Guys Like Me
6) Springsteen
7) Getting Stoned
8) Jack Daniels

9) Love Your Love The Most

10) Lotta Boot
11) Creepin
12) Country Boy Can Survive (Hank Williams Jr. Cover)

13) Homeboy

14) Smoke A Little Smoke

Toby Keith
1) Bullets in the Gun
2) American Ride
3) Just Talkin’ About Tonight
4) Made In America
5) Whiskey Girl
6) Lady Marmalade (sung by Mica Roberts)
7) I Wanna Walk About Me
8) Get Drunk and Be Somebody
9) Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You
10) Who’s Your Daddy
11) As Good As I Once Was
12) I Love This Bar
13) Should’ve Been a Cowboy
14) Get Out of My Car
15) Weed With Willie (with Scotty Emerick)
16) The Taliban Song (with Scotty Emerick)
17) Beer For My Horses
18) How Do You Like Me Now
19) A Little Less Talk, A Lot More Action
20) American Soldier
21) Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue