Anyone who really knows me understands that I have love for Toby Keith. If it was not for me hearing his song I Love This Bar in college, I would not have made the full leap to absolutely loving the country music genre. However, as I have listened to everything the genre has to offer and attended hundreds of concerts, it has made me more observant to the little nuances of the actual business behind the music.
That being said, when I heard Toby Keith was releasing a new song, my first thought was “please do not be about drinking, again”. When I saw the title I was immediately disappointed. However, when I heard who the writers were, it gave me a glimmer of hope. Brandy Clark (Mama’s Broken Heart, Better Dig Two), Shane McAnally (Somewhere With You, Merry Go Round, Come Over), and Bob DiPiero (Southern Voice, Gone, Cowboys Like Us) are widely known for their quality songwriting ability. The three writers have co-written countless hits and award winning songs. So, in that, I had a glimmer of hope.
When the song came out on iTunes at midnight on October 14th, I immediately downloaded it and ran into a guest bedroom of my house so I would not wake my wife and baby because I just had to hear the song. After just one verse, all I could do was shake my head. Not because the song was bad, but because I immediately could recognize what somehow the three writers and Toby could not, that one word could have ultimately changed the dynamics of the song.
What does Toby Keith do best? Recently, he may be most known for his drinking tunes, but when he was flying high at the top of the genre, it was his love for America and overall patriotic nature that made fans love him. And this song had that return potential. Drunk Americans is not a drinking song. The one word, DRUNK, misleads and confuses the true nature of what the song is about, what makes a person American.
The lyrics of the song show how people of many races, religions, political associations, and even fashion trends do not really separate each other in any way, because they are still just American. JUST American. We are not American because we are collectively drunk, its everything else mentioned in the song.
If the word DRUNK would have been changed to JUST it could have become another patriotic and uniting song that would have likely returned Toby to the top of the charts. But with the sloppy, confusing, and misleading title, which does not make sense when examined with the rest of the lyrics, it will now be less accepted by country radio and passed over by the majority of fans across America.
This is just my humble opinion, what do you all think? Drunk or Just?
Eric Church The Outsiders World Tour w/ Dwight Yoakam and Brandy Clark October 25, 2014 Mohegan Sun Arena, Connecticut
I have seen Eric Church many times over the years, from small clubs and bars to him being a supporting act for other headliners. Over that course of time I always thought he stole the show, but wondered what it would be like to see him perform at a big time venue with a stage and experience he personally planned out. When The Outsiders World Tour passed through northern Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena, I had my answer. He did not disappoint in the least.
The festivities kicked off that night with a set from singer/song-writer, Brandy Clark. I last saw Brandy in New York City’s intimate venue, The Bowery Ballroom, when she opened for Kacey Musgraves. That night she captivated the smaller crowd with her descriptive lyrics and story telling ability. This night was a bit different as her set did not translate to a larger scaled arena. Most fans did not know who she was and had never heard her songs, other than the covers she selected. Further, her stationary performance style in such a large arena lacked any energy whatsoever. I think Brandy is very talented and hope to see her again in a smaller venue, where she really can shine.
Dwight Yoakam was next on the bill and the lack of energy that Brandy Clark had was completely different from the style he came out with. Despite having an awful sound manager his performance was quite fun. He had some unique dance moves and leg movements during the guitar solo’s in the midst of his hit filled set. Dressed in the Canadian Tuxedo complete with a cowboy hat that would make Clint Eastwood proud, Dwight ran through songs such as Honky Tonk Man, Streets of Bakersfield, and even through a rendition of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire. Dwight fought through the faulty microphone malfunctions and really put forth a solid set.
After a slideshow of VIP and press passes from all of the unique venues Eric Church and his band have played through the years, the lights went dim and Eric appeared on stage. Fittingly, he jumped into The Outsiders acoustically until the band joined him after the first verse. What followed was a visually stunning spectacle of lights, smoke, and moving apparatuses on stage. In fact, Eric’s drummer descended from the large screen above the stage, something I have never seen before at a concert.
Eric’s setlists have never been the same in the dozen or so times I have seen him and this night had plenty of surprises as well. Of course, the hits such as Drink In My Hand, Smoke A Little Smoke, Cold One, Homeboy, and Give Me Back My Hometown were part of the list. But the less known album cuts such as The World Needs a Drink (selected by a fan club member), Hungover & Hard Up, Wrecking Ball and Rollercoaster were the songs I was most excited to hear. For some reason, its these lesser played songs that really get the intense and passionate reaction that I love to see from Eric Church.
And that intensity and passion is exactly what has created Eric into the phenomenon he is today. He is absolutely one of the leading front men for live shows as he has such a real and true reaction from the crowd and his own music. His band is not all that impressive, in fact, I kept wondering what a instrumentally technical song like Cold One could sound like live if a skilled band such as Zac Brown Band would put their fingers to it. But its not the band that the fans come to see, its the man with the shades. And halfway through his set, just before Homeboy, he put on his infamous denim trucker hat and the energy in the building noticeably changed and things got a lot more rowdy.
After telling everyone what he would do if anyone messed with his little boy in Dark Side, an enormous devil like creature appeared in the far up of the arena as he fittingly launched into Devil, Devil. If that was not enough, he followed it up with two of his most high octane songs, Country Music Jesus and Smoke a Little Smoke. And while most artists would have probably ended it there, to the crowd’s delight there was still another seven songs left in the set.
A staple of Eric Church concerts today and forever will be highlighted by his career defining hit, Springsteen and his unique ability to work a different Bruce Springsteen song into it each night. I know this tour has feature the classics Thunder Road, Glory Days, Born To Run and Born in the USA. But on this night, it was Dancing In The Dark that got the Eric Church treatment and it launched the crowd into an absolute frenzy. See a video clip here:
Also among the final few songs were two songs which showed a sensitive side that most do not really known Eric has. The first was These Boots which true fans show so much love for as dozens raised their cowboy boots in the air. Eric even signed a few after the song finished. He ended the night with a song he described as “a song we don’t play every night but is fitting for tonight” as he performed a stirring Those I’ve Loved Along the Way which brought goose bumps to anyone who can appreciate quality music as the lyrics are not only poignant, but his vocals were the best they were all night.
All in the all the night was exactly what I had expected: intense, passionate, visually stunning and as energetic as any performer in the music business today. I am happy that Eric Church is finally getting the notoriety that he has deserved for so long and this World Tour should do wonders for him for years to come. In a day of bro country and pop country, if you are not one of Eric Church’s Outsiders, you are doing it wrong.
SETLIST: Eric Church
Guys Like Me
Hungover & Hard Up
I’m Getting Stoned
Pledge Allegiance to the Hag
Drink A Little Drink
The World Needs A Drink (Terri Clarke Cover, Eric Church wrote it)