Eric Church soars at US Airways Center Phoenix, AZ 1-24-15 w/ Halestorm & Dwight Yoakam

eric church slide edited 1 - Eric Church soars at US Airways Center Phoenix, AZ 1-24-15 w/ Halestorm & Dwight Yoakam

Eric Church soars at US Airways Center Phoenix, AZ 1-24-15 w/ Halestorm & Dwight Yoakam

Nowadays, genre is an almost obsolete term as most listeners dabble in just about every form of music around.  That is why it comes as no surprise Country Rock star Eric Church has teamed up with classic country star Dwight Yoakam and Hard Rock band Halestorm for a string of dates as part of his The Outsiders World Tour.  Supporting the album, which hit number one on both the US Billboard 200 chart and US Top Country Album chart, Church’s tour hit arenas all across North America in late 2014 and kicked off again on January 9th 2015.  Making a stop at US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona on Saturday January 24th, it was time for worlds to collide in an epic Rock show fans of all ages were ready for.

As one of the hottest Hard Rock acts in recent years, Red Lion, Pennsylvania’s Halestorm were up first and some may say had a challenge ahead of them.  While the band has been touring since 2006, sharing the stage with acts such as Chevelle, Seether, Staind, and Shinedown among many others, this bold move to join up with Church on tour rose much curiosity.  While some fans in the crowd were unfamiliar with the high octane female Rock vocalist Lzzy Hale and her bunch, the lights went down and the show began.  As Hale walked out and, quickly gazing into the large crowd, she went right to work, amply singing newer track “She Won’t Mind.” Under the spotlight, all by herself, to start to set, Lzzy enticed the crowd to join with a hand clapping beat that broke the ice quickly.  That is when the true rocking began and Arejay Hale (drums), Joe Hottinger (guitar), and Josh Smith (bass) kicked into another groovy new piece called “I Like It Heavy.” Having the audience bopping their heads and tapping their toes, they were taken by when Lzzy belted out some raunchy notes and jammed impressively on her guitar.  Aware of who Halestorm were or not ten minutes prior, it was now a full-blown Rock show and cheers poured down for more as they went into their latest single “Apocalyptic,” before giving everyone a taste of Grammy winner “Love Bites (So Do I).”  While the set was only seven songs long, Halestorm did not let the time restrain hold up a killer drum solo by Arejay before “Mayhem,” “I Miss the Misery,” and closing drink-tossing tune “Here’s to Us.”  Halestorm proved they are not a one-trick pony, can dance with any audience, and win them over.  Be sure to look out for their newest album, Into the Wild, out April 7th as they continue their dominance.

Next up was Kentucky’s own Dwight Yoakam.  As Country royalty, Yoakam has released a slew of successful records since 1986 including numerous contributions to film soundtracks.  Known as a tremendous pure songwriter, the audience at US Airways Arena were ready to hear some of their favorite Country tunes.  Approaching the stage to a standing ovation, Yoakam’s greyish hair was flowing out from under his trademark white cowboy hat as he kicked off with “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke.”  Tearing through like a man inspired, Yoakam went into hits such as Elvis Presley’s “Little Sister,” Buck Owen’s “Streets of Bakersfield,” as well as “It Won’t Hurt.”  Keeping the crowd smiling, Yoakam seemed very relaxed on stage moving along into other favorites such as “Ain’t That Lonely Yet,” “Honky Tonk Man,” and “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere.”  Proving to be a legend during his entire performance, Yoakam wound down with other great tracks such as “Guitars, Cadillacs” as he revved up the arena. Never disappointing his fans, Yoakam lived up to his name with a strong balanced offering of all his great songs.

With two strong opening acts, the energy of the crowd was ever growing with anticipation for Church to begin.  Nominated and winner of numerous Country awards over the years, including 2015’s pending nominations for Best Country album and song, it is no wonder the excitement was ready to boil over in the arena. With AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock” echoing through the air, the wait was finally over with Church and company ready to roll.

Walking out with his band of Driver Williams (guitar), Jeff Cease (guitar), Lee Hendrix (bass), and Jeff Hyde (banjo/ mandolin/guitar), Church powered through “The Outsiders.” Dramatic and striking, it seemed as if the song set the tone for the rest of the evening ahead. As Church emerged from white lights and created a silhouette on stage, his drummer Craig Wright was slowly lowered from above to join the rest of the band on stage adding to the theatrics.  With runways off the set spanning left and right into the crowd, to wrap around the stage, Church had the ability to interact with fans at every corner of the arena.  Going into 2011’s “Creepin,'” Church dedicated himself to working the audience while playing other songs such as “Guys Like Me” and “Over When It’s Over,” which featured some incredible Gospel vocals of female backing singers.  It was a balanced offering that was well-selected while keeping the adrenaline flowing for the fans, and this was only a few songs in. Keeping the truck rockin’, Church went into a swampy, swaggering, attitude-driven rendition of “Lotta Boot Left to Fill” before taking a moment to address the crowd.  Scrappy and enduring, Church shrunk the size of the arena to that of a smaller club as fans cheered and he simply said, “Buckle up, it’s going to be one of those nights.” It was then that he reached back to his 2006 debut album Sinners Like Me to play “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag,” following with current single “Talladega.”  Feeling like a track fans will be singing for years, the mix of the old and new worked magically for Church, who seemed to be in a groove no one could touch.

Keeping the fun-loving atmosphere going, Church kept the audience involved handing a spectator a list of songs, letting them pick one, to which they yelled out, “I know where I’m from, how ’bout you,” prompting the band to break out into a Bluegrass version of the tune “How ‘Bout You.”  Staying with the older material, the mandolin-fueled title track “Sinners Like Me” had everyone in a trance pumping them back up with newbie “Cold One.”  Showing a love for straight up Southern Rock, Church appropriately invited Lzzy Hale back out onto the stage for raucous rendition of “That’s Damn Rock & Roll.” Matching each other’s passion with each note, many could argue it was a highlight in a set full of highlights. Performing for nearly two hours, Church covered a lot of ground and ended the show right with “These Boots” followed by the bittersweet anthem “Springsteen.” The closer gave Church a chance to talk about how his music changed his life forever as a teenager, and with that, he orchestrated the most spirited sing-along, telling the fans, “We’re gonna make a memory right now for everybody in this room,” and everyone certainly did.

For some, this was their first time seeing Church live in concert, for others it has been a multi-time experience.  Regardless, it certainly will not be the last anyone who came out to US Airways Center attends his concert.  With uber enthusiasm, great musicianship from the backing band, and affectionate fan interaction, this is a concert experience everyone must check out to believe.


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Rick Triana
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