Eric Church brought his signature aviator sunglasses, his heavy twang and his library of chart-topping hits to Intrust Bank Arena on Thursday for a concert that drew 9,520 Budweiser-loving fans, many dressed in boots and ball caps.
Church, kind of a country Kid Rock who mixes young country lyrics about beer, girls and car racing with searing guitar solos worthy of any rock concert, was making his second stop in Wichita since earning headliner status in 2012. The North Carolina native is touring in support of his “The Outsiders” album, which was released in February.
The show included songs from all four of Church’s albums, including early hits “Guys Like Me” and “Sinners Like Me” as well as his current hit, “Talladega.”
Members of the crowd, heavily populated with 20-somethings, knew the lyrics to most of the songs and sang along enthusiastically, their plastic cups raised in the air.
Church’s giant stage was an impressive site. Made up of ramps and two catwalks extending into the crowd, it also had a place for fans on their feet to crowd in right in front of the stage as well as two similar side sections. The onstage light show was intense and often blinding, and several members of the crowd could have benefited from a pair of Church’s aviators, too.
An unexpected moment occurred during the song “Devil, Devil.” An enormous blow-up demon, at least as tall as the upper deck of the arena, suddenly appeared in the back of the house. It had snakes jutting out of its head and glowing eyes and made a full 360-degree turn before disappearing where it came from. It was definitely not a typical country concert prop.
Other songs on Church’s setlist: “Creepin,” “The Outsiders,” “Homeboy,” “Drink in My Hand” and “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag.”
The concert’s two opening acts also showcased rock and country.
Halestorm, a hard rocking band from Pennsylvania lead by deep-voiced belter Lzzy Hale, was the first act up. Hale channeled Joan Jett as she lead the group, which also features her frenetic drumming brother Arejay Hale, through a short set that included the Grammy-winning “Love Bites (So Do I).” She also returned to the stage mid-concert to perform “That’s Damn Rock and Roll” with Church.
Next up was legendary country crooner-turned-actor Dwight Yoakam, who in the late 1980s and early 1990s was the headliner, not the opening act. Wearing a big cowboy boot, a denim jacket and boots, Yoakam wasn’t a particularly energetic performer, but what his set lacked in charisma it made up for in recognizable hits that got the audience singing along: “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere,” “Guitars, Cadillacs,” “Honky Tonk Man” and “Little Ways” among them.