Country fans raise a glass to Eric Church


Dylan Shen

Country singer-songwriter Eric Church brings his Double Down Tour to Boston.

Riley Robinson, news staff

Who knew so many people owned cowboy boots in the Boston area?

It almost seemed there was a required uniform to attend Eric Church’s Double Down Tour Friday and Saturday at TD Garden. The boots peeked out from actual bootcut jeans or stomped proudly outside a pair of leggings. Men wore plaid flannel shirts and trucker ball caps. A Tom Brady jersey was also acceptable.

It made sense to dress comfortably, because this was a marathon of a concert. Church’s tour takes a novel approach, playing a two-night series in 19 cities, with different set lists across both nights. On Saturday, he sang for more than three hours, with one intermission and no opener.

It was certainly a country show, but with a rock ’n’ roll vibe and a flair for showmanship. Strobes crossed from the arena ends, so crisp and close it seemed you could pluck one and it would vibrate in sympathy with the guitar slung on Church’s shoulder. He’s mastered the tongue-out head bop and the I-don’t-care swagger, which he employed on a square catwalk that encircled a general admission section for superfans, nestled in with the band.

This group is called the Church Choir. It was a place for drinking and dancing and yelling “Beat L.A.!” into the darkness at the top of your lungs. Actually, everyone was standing and dancing, even at the top row of the top balcony. Swaying couples dotted the audience — were they worried about static sparks in all that flannel?

It wouldn’t matter, because any fires could have been drenched out with alcohol. (That’s how that works, right?) Hands gripping cups of beer rose up in synchrony at “Drink in My Hand,” a platinum hit from the summer of 2011. Church opened the night with an ode to the local bartender, with the song “Drowning Man” off his sixth studio album, Desperate Man, released in October.

Dylan Shen
Church performed for more than three hours to a thundering TD Garden Saturday night.

Church himself is more of a whiskey guy, Jack Daniel’s specifically. He has a whole song dedicated to it, during which he jumped off the stage and poured an entire bottle worth of shots for nearby fans. When he returned to the stage, a small boy reached up from the front row, offering Church a nip from an outstretched hand.

Interactions like this were a motif of the night: Church’s fans liked to give him stuff. People intermittently passed up American flag-print scarves for Church to drape behind his neck like a priest’s stole. They passed up records for him to sign during “Record Year.”

The cowboy boots got their own moment of glory during the throwback track “These Boots” from Church’s first album. Throughout the stadium, audience members took a boot off one foot to wave in the air — or throw onstage. Church did his best to toss them back to their sock-footed owners.

From the barrage of boots and records and homemade signs bearing his name, it was clear Church is beloved by his fans, even as far north as Boston.

Jean Sullivan of Marshfield, Massachusetts, is one of these dedicated fans. She usually brings her daughter to country concerts in the area, but attended her third Church show Saturday with a friend, both decked out in red and blue Patriots apparel.

“Eric Church’s style is a man’s man type of singer. He’s got his dog, he’s got his beer. He talks about the country, talks about hunting, talks about standing up for what he believes in,” Sullivan said. “Don’t get me wrong, women love him, but he’s definitely a man’s man singer.”

Church may be a “man’s man” who appreciates a good drink, but he was still momentarily apprehensive at a young boy offering him liquor mid-show.

“I don’t know if I’m comfortable with this,” Church said with a chuckle. “What are you, seven? Eight? Oh, ten, you’re ten.” Church took the bottle, threw it back and yelled, “Welcome to Boston!”