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Eric Church's star rises

Nokia Theater, Los Angeles, November 4, 2012

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Other recent concert reviews
It's always fascinating to watch how an artist evolves into an A-list performer, and with his win for Album of the Year at this year's CMA Awards, Eric Church suddenly finds himself up there with the top name male country artists. Tonight in Los Angeles, Church headlined a tour stop with two other rising artists, Kip Moore and Justin Moore, and revealed how he has the quality songs to deserve such an enviable position.

Toward the end of Church's approximately hour and a half set, he stood on stage with nothing except his acoustic six-string, where he sang three songs like an old folkie, including Love Like Jesus. An ability to stand naked, so to speak, and still be compelling, is a rare quality, and Church transformed this medium size hall into a small club in seemingly a moment's notice. It's not difficult to see why A&R folks recognized Church's potential, long before the general public caught on. His songwriting stands on its own.

Church also gave his audience a little eye candy tonight when he filled his recent single Creepin' with spooking musical effects and shooting green laser lights. He later ended Smoke a Little Smoke with so much literal stage smoke, you couldn't even see the band for a minute or so.

Church didn't need too much visual assistance with a few of his more popular songs, however, including the jangling Hell on the Heart, and particularly Springsteen, which found the singer/songwriter accompanying himself on a white acoustic piano, rolled out on stage for just this occasion.

Church is still bit of an uncomfortable front man, with an annoying habit of beating his chest like King Kong and making excited facial expressions whenever overcome with emotion. But whether singing about a girl or alcohol, as he did with Jack Daniels, Church has a gift for words that makes him so much more than just a trucker look-alike, dressed in a baseball cap and shades.

Church was preceded by Moore, who has obviously added a lot more live seasoning since his recent opening slot for Brad Paisley. Sure, the gunplay opener of Guns went a little too heavy on the NRA promotion, but his softer songs, including If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away and particularly 'Till My Last Day proved that Moore has a pleasing voice and a natural delivery, which counts for so much more than a Southern man's love of weaponry.

Moore only had a half-hour of stage time, but made the best of it his soulful, sandpaper singing voice, which he applied to the irresistible Somethin' 'Bout A Truck, as well as Beer Money. His between songs patter really helped the audience get to know him a little better, such as his story about proving a record company man wrong about his potential, which made him more likeable.

It's easy to imagine both of Church's two tour mates on the A-list one day, as well. So Blake Shelton, watch your crown because there's a lot of talented testosterone on your tale these days.