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Turn the Quiet Up

Opening Morning

It was the silence that gave away Tuesday’s crowd.

There had already been plenty of signs that this group at the fifth night of Eric Church’s “To Beat the Devil” residency at Chief’s would be a live one. We’ll get to those.

But what really revealed them was the rapturous, complete, total silence during certain parts of the show. There is courteous silence. There is respectful silence. This was more like awed silence.

Without giving too much away, there are moments during the show when Church speaks very frankly about challenges he has faced both in his career and personally. During those stretches, it almost felt like the 389 people inside the Neon Steeple were holding their breath.

This group took Church’s declaration that the Chief’s stage is his living room very seriously. So they listened when he was telling them his troubles, sure. But they also jeered the actions of certain villains during the course of the story. They laughed heartily at the funny parts.

When Church told them about certain career highlights, they cheered like he had just scored the game-winning touchdown as time expired. And keep in mind, this was a touchdown they already knew was coming. But they still reveled in the way he told it to them.

And they sang. Every single word, they sang. This was not murmuring. This was full on, belting it out singing. Whether it was from 2006 or 2014 or 2021, they knew them by heart. Even some of the ones they hadn’t heard before, you got the sense if he’d just give them a few bars more, they’d have it down. A handful of them had been at Chief’s since the Choir Coffee Tour at 8 a.m. They ate lunch at Rodney Scott’s Hell of a Q and they bought the night’s show poster and they wore the t-shirts from past tours. They were here to have the full experience.

“Springsteen” was a triumph to them. There were people high-fiving across multiple rows when he played it. During other songs, there were multiple shouts of “Amen!” from the pews…uh, the seats. Although come to think of it, there were “Amens” in the pews in the balcony seating, too.

At one point, a fan a few rows back (keep in mind that in this venue there is no seat more than a few rows back) announced that she had played “Creepin’” on her wedding day.

This was noteworthy even to Church, a man who has played everywhere from Wal-Mart parking lots to packed stadiums, and someone who has seen quite literally everything from his vantage point on the stage looking out at crowds for the better part of two decades. He had already reminded them that at one point, he was willing to play anything, anytime—including “Material Girl.” But this news about a song from 2011 made him pause.

“You played Creepin’ on your wedding day?” he said from the stage. “That’s a new one.”

But for this crowd? Not entirely unexpected.