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Eric Church rocks hard with his country

The Boardwalk, Orangevale, Cal., October 25, 2007

Reviewed by Michael Sudhalter

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Eric Church was the only country act in recent memory to play this Sacramento, Cal.-area rock club, so it was no surprise that his guitarist sported a Metallica T-Shirt and played a solo of "Enter Sandman."

But the North Carolina native's country vocals complemented his 5-piece band's rock instrumentals during a 90-minute set.

Church's brand of country isn't your standard radio fare. He proved that he's capable of doing everything from southern and classic rock to traditional country, but it was his own songs that delivered the knockout punch at the show.

Church played all 12 songs from his debut, "Sinners Like Me," and intertwined snippets of covers before, after and inbetween his songs. He opened with a rocking version of "Before She Does" and in a strange twist, asked the fans if they liked Merle Haggard. But he went on to play a rousing cover of AC/DC's "Fat Bottomed Girls" before delving into his tribute to the legend, "Pledge Allegiance To The Hag."

Church showed lots of versatility from the rocking tunes to the ballads, but the latter was the highlight of the show.

For example, "These Boots" was the type of song that connected immediately with the audience in this small venue. His mention of "just having to see California" drew large applause from the crowd. He also introduced a new song, "Julia," about summer love. It had a 1970's rock ballad vibe, so it's no surprise that Church said he wrote it while on tour with Bob Seger.

He rollicked back into the blue collar anthem "How 'Bout You," but interestingly enough, injected The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" and "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" before singing the final verse of his first hit.

Church listened to the crowd sing back the words to his biggest hit, "Guys Like Me," before walking off stage. He returned with a 20-minute encore, highlighted by "Lightning," the chilling ballad of an inmate awaiting execution.