Sometimes the best version of a musician’s work is on an immaculately produced and engineered CD, one that has seen the loving care of electronic tools to craft a sound that is better than real life could ever be. Sometimes you go to see this musician live and realize that perhaps they’re better performing in a studio.
And sometimes, the reverse is true.
Eric Church is a live act. The way he delivers a song on the stage is a dynamic, powerful experience, and is one of the reasons his star has risen so far and so high in such a relatively short period of time. The Inky Jukebox has been a fan of Church since his early days, when we trolled YouTube for shaky footage of him performing on tailgates. It doesn’t matter if it’s just him and a guitar in a parking lot or accompanied by a full band and light show on a stage, he gives 100% every time.
This summer he’s playing stadiums on the Kenny Chesney tour — which will be interesting to see, because playing a stadium is a wholly different task than playing an amphitheater or arena. We’d say it will introduce him to a whole new fan base, but come on : who are we kidding? If you’re going to a Chesney show, you’re already familiar with Church.
At this weekend’s Academy of Country Music Awards, Church delivered the kind of performance that folks who have been to his live shows have seen, but those watching on TV haven’t: a stripped down acoustic set. This time, he also did it without his signature ball cap and aviator shades. It's a tonic for those who only associate him with loud, fast-paced floor-thumpers. Dude can sing and play.
We like the beard. It echoes the stark video he released for “Like Jesus Does.”
Church has said that people will view his career as pre- and post-Chief. The Inky Jukebox isn’t so sure. Every one of his prior albums is a complete statement, and is just as well-crafted.
Perhaps he feels this way because he has just released his first live album, which is heavily loaded with songs from Chief (understandably, since it was recorded during a show on his most recent tour). It’s not a greatest hits album, as some have said: it’s merely a live album. But it is the next best thing to hearing Church play live, and will give anyone who has never seen him an idea of the energy he exudes on stage.
If you like your country rocking — you’ll love this record. The iTunes version has 17 tracks to the physical CD’s 11, so it’s absolutely worth the download.