Taking a break from rotating stages, sky-bound drum risers and sold-out arenas, Eric Church took his Outsiders World Tour to Austin in mid-September, where he scaled back the production — but not the intensity — for his first performance on Austin City Limits. The hour-long concert hits PBS this Saturday, November 15th, at 9 p.m. ET.
Anchored by the thrash and thud of a six-piece backing band, the Austin City Limits performance shines a light on a swaggering, sunglassed Chief, who doesn’t need the Jumbrotrons and rotating light displays of his arena shows to pack a punch. What he does need are hits, and Church has plenty of those, stuffing his 12-song set with Top 10 singles like “Creepin,'” “The Outsiders” and “Drink in My Hand.” To drive home his outsider status, he also includes a few tunes that didn’t make it onto the Billboard charts. One particular highlight: “These Boots,” a deep cut from 2006’s Sinners Like Me, during which Church convinces the entire studio audience to take off their boots and wave them in the air. That’s damn rock & roll.
The audience participates in a singalong version of “Springsteen,” too, joining Church during the anthemic “whoa whoa whoa” chant. Rather than use backing tracks to mimic the song’s keyboard-heavy studio arrangement, Church relies heavily on guitars — four of them, in fact — to add some ballsy boom to a song about memory, melody and the Boss. Watch the video, which makes its online premiere at Rolling Stone Country, above.
“[This song] is about no matter how old you get, no matter where you are, when you hear a song, you’re right back where you were the first time you heard that song,” he tells the crowd midway through the tune. “Let me tell you this: no matter where I go in life from right here, I’m always gonna remember Austin City Limits tonight. For that, I thank you. Now, I wanna hear you!”
And with that, the crowd launches into another round of “whoa whoa whoa”s, happy to be outsiders once again.