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6/8/24 residency show

Rock and Roll

It’s always the same.

Except when it isn’t.

And when it’s Eric Church, the only constant is that it’s absolutely, positively never the same.

On Sunday night, Church concluded a wildly successful 19-show residency at Chief’s on Broadway.

Every seat for “To Beat the Devil” was sold out. Fan response was universally positive. In a sure sign it had artistic merit, even other Nashville artists started to make regular stops by Chief’s, not to join him on stage, but to watch from the crowd.

The no phones policy enacted for these shows kept them largely under wraps. No YouTube videos. No photos of set lists on social media. No spoilers on the stories told by Church.

The policy also would have enabled Church to keep the show identical from night to night. After all, there was no way for anyone to check behind him. This could be the one time in his career when he took a break from the variable setlists that are a trademark of his usual live shows. Find a formula that works and stick with it.

But that wouldn’t be him.

So he constantly tried new approaches. That started just hours before the very first show, when he and manager John Peets loved an element they had used during the friends and family soft opening show, which was just a five-song set of the much larger show that made up the full residency.

So they stayed up until nearly dawn rewriting the show, which was due to open in just a few hours. They didn’t stop there, because it kept developing. Church added a new coda to the end of the performance about midway through and stuck with it throughout the final handful of shows, because it just felt like it worked. There were nights he told expanded versions of certain stories and nights he omitted them altogether.

And then, with just two shows remaining, he added a completely new song, one no one had ever heard before. He could have been coasting. Instead, he was still creating.

The ability to feel the room, and to constantly search for the right way to feed that room, is what’s made that connection between Church and his fans so strong. He’s always looking for the very best way to give them a night they’ll remember. And for that reason, they’re constantly having nights they remember.

He takes entertaining them extremely seriously. But he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and they love him for it. Earlier in the weekend, he muffed the opening notes of a song that’s a fairly essential part of his catalog. “I forgot the damn song,” he grinned, looking directly into the audience.

They loved it. Because they’ve all forgotten that password they have used thousands of times. See, we’re exactly the same! Stars are just like us!

And then it came back to him, and the writing and performance was flawless, and it was a reminder that we are decidedly not exactly the same.

There are only a very few people on the planet right now who have been to the heights Church has reached. They are the ones who can walk into a room and stop it instantly. They are the ones who have stood on a stage in front of a stadium full of people and heard that stadium sing back every word of a song they wrote.

One of those was in attendance at the Neon Steeple on Sunday night, as former Motley Crue singer Vince Neil came by to watch the “To Beat the Devil” show.

It’s a bit of a surreal experience to watch someone who has entertained 70,000 people watch one of the other rare human beings who has entertained 70,000 people.

“Doing it here isn’t that different than doing it at Nissan Stadium,” Neil said, gesturing to the 398-seat room. “In both places, you’re trying to get everyone singing with you, and when they do, it’s a great thing, man. It’s a thrill to see people having fun and singing your songs.”

That’s what happened at Chief’s on Sunday night, as the sellout crowd sang every word to the songs that have been released. Maybe “Kickstart My Heart” and “Country Music Jesus” aren’t identical. But they’ve got some common traits—most notably, the way the creator enjoys singing them and the crowd responds to them.

Neil is an unquestioned authority on one very specific topic: rock and roll. And even in this show, even with the guitars unplugged and the lights fairly simple and the flashy stage tricks non-existent, he knew immediately what he saw at Chief’s.

“Eric and myself are the same kind of guy,” Neil said. “Granted, he’s a bit country. But I love him because he’s rock and roll.”

Get More On The Record

First Floor of Neon Steeple


The Brand

The Eric Church brand is big. But part of the reason why it works is that every element of what it’s become retains the authenticity from where it began. Saturday’s residency show demonstrated why it matters.

Bar in Friendly Shadows


After Hours

When Friday night’s “To Beat the Devil” residency show concluded, Eric Church was just getting started making memories. First- and second-floor Chief’s patrons went home with a late-night memory they won’t soon forget.

Hell of a Q Rooftop


The Scene

It’s CMA Fest weekend in Nashville, which means the sidewalks are packed, the music is loud–and Eric Church is still blissfully ignoring all the commotion while doing things his own way inside Chief’s.