Eric Church christened Nashville’s new Ascend Amphitheater with a sold-out, two-night stand last week and turned in a stunning, old-school cover of the Band’s “The Weight” with Ryan Bingham and Joanna Cotten in the process.
The brand-spanking new venue sits right on the bank of the Cumberland River and features breathtaking views of the city, and Church’s fans packed it out to the tune of almost 7,000 people both nights. His set lists included all the fan favorites – “Springsteen,” “Give Me Back My Hometown” and “These Boots” among others – but when he invited Bingham and Cotten out as special guests for the classic rock staple on Friday night (July 31st), Church’s dedication to keeping the soul of live concerts alive came into full view.
With the crowd singing along, Church started into the song playing acoustic guitar at center stage before motioning over to Bingham to take the second verse. As soon as “The Weary Kind” singer’s weathered vocals took hold, the audience went nuts, but even that was soon upstaged by Cotten’s belting third verse. Her powerhouse vocals seemed to surprise everybody — Church included — and as the song continued he couldn’t help but flash a big grin and shake his head in disbelief.
In the past two years, Church’s live performances have become known for their stripped-down approach, bucking big production elements like pyrotechnics and video pieces to focus on just the musicians and their craft, and this performance showed off a pinnacle of achievement in that sense. The North Carolina native’s upcoming tour dates include a stadium date with Kenny Chesney’s the Big Revival Tour in Detroit on August 22nd, as well as stops at the Boots and Hearts Festival in Ontario, Canada (August 8th), the New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York (August 27th), the Great Allentown Fair in Allentown, Pennsylvania (September 4th) and the WCOL Country Jam Festival in Thornville, Ohio (September 5th).