Eric Church: The Red Rocks Experience

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Eric Church – Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado (August 9 & 10, 2016)

Written by Kristin Hamlin

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the first of an epic two night special acoustic event by Eric Church at the legendary Red Rocks.  Lightning flashes went off everywhere, but never a sound all night, but there was no rain.  It was almost as if the Heavens were enjoying this show as well. 

Eric Church.  Two words, but one big meaning. 

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 I was fortunate to land sixth row, smack dab in the center at Red Rocks for both nights of Eric Church last week.  I have been to my share of concerts at this Amphitheatre, but I knew this time would be different.   The way the stage was set up was as if you were in Eric’s living room; rugs and candles lit the stage, with just a piano and a microphone. 

 You could hear a pin drop as the lights went down and Eric was about to come on stage.  As soon as those familiar ray bans and side smirk became visible, the crowd erupted into a standing ovation.  Eric sat there in awe for a about a minute, taking it all in, and then the familiar chords of ‘Mistress Named Music’ started playing, and everyone began to sing as loud as they could, never missing a beat.  What none of us were expecting, was when Eric broke out into covers of other people’s songs in the middle of Mistress.  (like a rock, ain’t got money, piano man, troubadours) and then ended it with the last chorus of Mistress.  It was incredible.

 Without missing a beat, he flowed into ‘Mr. Misunderstood’.  The crowd was so loud singing it back to him, he let us sing the chorus to him, and as we did, he just smiled and mouthed ‘thank you for this’ to us.  That was definitely one of my favorite parts of the night.  He then went on to sing Smoke, Drink in my Hand and Record Year, and then ‘Mixed Drinks About Feelings’.  Next was his upcoming single, ‘Kill a Word’, and before singing it, he told the crowd how he didn’t think there was a more appropriate song to sing with all that has been going on in the world.  The passion in the way he sang this song was goosebump-worthy, as you could tell this song meant a whole lot to him. Then came ‘Pledge Allegiance to the Hag’, ‘Rock and roll Jesus’, ‘Homeboy’, ‘Creepin’, ‘Dark Side’ ‘Living part of life’, ‘Jack Daniels’, and ‘Wrecking Ball’ – where he even had Peyton Manning jamming right behind him.  The crowd didn’t miss a word!

 What happened next warmed everyone’s hearts.  Eric spoke quietly and said ‘I promised someone I would play this…I hope I can make it through the song’ and turned around to where his son was sitting and blew him a kiss.  ‘Three Year Old’ was the song he sang for him and  I teared up watching him singing it, because I knew behind those sun glasses, he was doing the same thing.  It was absolutely magical. Then came ‘Cold One’ and ‘Chattanooga Lucy’ and the energy was wild!

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Next, Eric had said the next song he had never played live before, but he wanted to play it because the first time he came to Red Rocks, this song came on his bus, and it stuck with him so much, and he had told his band just hours before he was going to play it.  The second the first verse came from his mouth, the audience didn’t make a sound, and we all watched in awe as Eric played Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ – his voice as strong as I’ve ever heard it.  It was probably at that moment, that I realize I was witnessing the best live act I have ever seen in my life.  I have never been that impressed and touched with any artist I’ve seen, but this show was much different. 

 He followed that by singing ‘Knives of New Orleans’, ‘These Boots’, ‘Talladega’ and ‘Holding My Own’ and bowed his head and said thank you again and left the stage.  The crowd, who never sat down once, chanted his name, and in seconds, Eric was back out, singing my personal favorite ‘Those I’ve Loved’.  This was the best closing song I could think of.

The show the next night was completely different, which made this concert experience unlike any other.  He had said he had one song he knew he was going to sing for sure, and the rest he just made up as it went, following the energy of the crowd.  As soon as the show ended, the quiet lightning stopped.