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Church proves why faithful gather again

Crypto.com, Los Angeles, May 7, 2022

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Eric Church is calling his 2022 trek the "Gather Again" tour, and this could well be the moniker for most any post-pandemic concert schedule. It's especially fitting for Church, though, as his fans – known as his "choir" – are loyal ones that attend his shows again and again. And he didn't disappoint tonight, with a wide ranging, nearly three-hour show.

Church had no opening acts, and even though the concert didn't start until an hour after the time listed on the ticket, he was clearly fully engaged, from start to finish. Although highlights were many, his set escalated from good to great about the midpoint, when he sang the acoustic "Rock & Roll Found Me." Taken from his 2021 round of album projects, Church explained how it was written during a self-imposed break from songwriting. Writing songs every day, and then immediately recording them, was taking its toll, so he and his wife decided to step away from it all and watch the Elton John biopic, "Rocketman." However, a John remark in the film about how rock and roll found him, inspired a song idea. Church paused the movie, wrote the song and then resumed watching it. The result is a heartening autobiographical song about how music gave this "skinny little white kid" purpose in life.

Church songs range from stinging commentary ("Stick That In Your Country Song," "That Damn Rock & Roll") to the heartfelt and sincere ("Homeboy," "Springsteen"). Church honored Bruce Springsteen by singing The Boss's "Thunder Road," just before going into his own "Springsteen."

Songs like the regretful "Give Me Back My Hometown" and the fond-memory-laden "Talladega" prove how Church's appreciation for Springsteen comes through in his songs. All could relate to "Hippie Radio," where those drives in dad's car provided so much pop appreciation and knowledge.

One would be remiss reviewing a Church show without also mentioning his backup vocalist, Joanna Cotten. She's a true gospel/R&B vocal force, that helps to power many of Church's live performances. She almost never leaves the stage and helps give this country boy a whole lot of soul.

Although it's trendy in country music to compare earthly romance to heavenly love, Church sang a couple of songs with Jesus in them that completely avoided that cliché. "Country Music Jesus" extolled real country music like John the Baptist crying in the wilderness, while "Like Jesus Does" spoke of graceful love, which rang out loudly with gospel truth. Church got it right on both counts.

Few artists can play 30 songs in a night without resorting to filler. Church is one of these very few, which is why it was so enjoyable to join together with him again. Tonight, Church added a few new gems to his repertoire, which is why the faithful continue to gather – again and again.



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