Eric Church performs at the Majestic Theatre.
To the right of contemporary country singer Eric Church is a mohawked guitarist in a tight black shirt, ear pierced up and down, arms covered in tattoos. The plucked and inked picker embodies the theme of this one act show: Just how close to the rock 'n' roll border can Church move his familiar North Carolina country?
The more delicate acoustic guitar in the album"version of "Guys Like Me" has been drowned out by electric guitar solos; the band swaps the first chords of Church's "Before She Does" with the introduction to Alice In Chains' "Man in the Box" and transplants a Metallica riff into the middle of Church's first and only top 10 hit (and the song that filled the Majestic this Wednesday night) "How 'Bout You." It's repeatedly not the show anyone expected to see.
But the show couldn't be better.
Church's voice, still full of country twang, is most powerful when he sings at high volume to battle the electric guitar. When he sings low"key numbers the tension in his voice softens with the music. The audience, covered in plaid shirts and John Deere baseball caps, nonetheless cheers loudest for the rockingest songs. It's only then that Church can musically show the self-awareness that charms the crowd during his mid-show banter.
He's the kind of guy who seems genuinely shocked to have reached the Billboard charts, who skips doing a encore so he can stand by the merchandise table and sign anything anyone buys. And even if his albums will be best recorded in his own genre, the kind of guy who will wow you at a concert that mocks his place in the broader scheme of music.