By Cathy Rockwell

Concert review: Eric Church: The Outsiders World Tour with special guests Dwight Yoakam and Brandy Clark rocks the house at the Thompson Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee.

On the night before Halloween at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, thousands of fans gathered outside the Thompson Boling Arena for what was to be one of the craziest and wildest nights of the music year. There was a sense that something pretty amazing was about to happen just by watching the people and listening to excitement amongst the crowd. A mix of fans wore anything from western boots and jeans to leather and lace and anything in-between. There were young fans, older fans, families, couples and those flying solo, but the main reason everyone came out on this chilly fall night was to see three extremely talented musicians, Eric Church, Dwight Yoakam and Brandy Clark, and their very talented bands.

Clark is a gifted country music singer-songwriter whose songs have been recorded by Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, the Band Perry and Billy Currington to name a few. She took the stage promptly at 7 pm, wearing a Tennessee Lady Vols #1 shirt. Clark opened up with the hit song “Stripes,” the first hit single off her album 12 Stories.

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photo of Brandy Clark by Cathy Rockwell

 

She performed songs from her album as well as “Get High,” a song about trying to navigate on life’s unpredictable, stressful and chaotic journey. Clark sang The Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two” and Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” as well as “Crazy Women,” which tells the story of how women become that way (by crazy men). Clark is down-to-earth and her show reminds you of sitting on a back porch listening to good music about everyday life and stories that fans can relate to. She has an original style and artists like her should be around a very long time.

The first act lasted about 30 minutes and then fans got ready for one of the pioneers of country music, the Kentucky born, award winning, singer, musician, songwriter and actor Dwight Yoakam. He walked out on stage with his band dressed in a cowboy hat, denim jacket and jeans. Yoakam opened up with “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music),” which got the crowd to their feet and went right into “Please Please Baby.”

Photo of Dwight Yoakam by Cathy Rockwell

Photo of Dwight Yoakam by Cathy Rockwell

 

Elvis Presley’s “Little Sister” was next and then longtime favorite, “Streets of Bakersfield,” which Yoakam originally recorded with Buck Owens. He gave fans the opportunity to hear a new song that may be on his new album, “Second Hand Heart” which has a classic country feel to it and an upbeat melody. There were several fan favorites, “Aint That Lonely Yet,” “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere,” and “I Sang Dixie,” as well as a sultry, bluesy version of “Ring of Fire.” His performance ended with “Guitars and Cadillacs” and “Fast As You.” He and his band sounded amazing.

Once the stage cleared a video started to play on the screen box above the stage featuring Eric Church. Then came the calm before the storm. The drummer descended from the center of the ceiling behind the screens and Church took the stage a little after 9 pm. It was evident that he is at ease and comfortable taking charge of an arena. Church and his band were thunderous when they came out, opening with two powerhouse numbers; “The Outsiders” (the title track of the mega hit and bestselling album in 2014) and “Creepin’.” The stage had two catwalks that allowed the musicians and Church to come out and get closer to the fans.

It’s easy to see how this artist has successfully developed a new sound with his music from country to a heavier rock style sound. He has pulled two different music genres together along with a new group of fans. He has introduced country fans to something completely different and opened their minds up to a new style. He continues to evolve and yet he remains true to his roots. This is easily seen with the various age groups in the audience and the fact that there were hardly any seats left in the arena.

 

“Carolina,” “I’m Getting Stoned,” “Talladega,” “Sinners Like Me,” “Give Me Back My Hometown,” “Guys Like Me,” “Cold One,” and “Drink in My Hand” were just some of the hit he performed during his two-hour performance. When Church sang the song “That’s Damn Rock n’ Roll” one of his female back-up singers joined him. She had a powerful voice and held her own with Church. It was truly a strong and energized performance. Church gives a brief introduction to the ballad, “Dark Side,” a warning what would happen to anyone if they ever threatened or messed with his wife, his young son or anyone that he cared about.

One of the most talked about moments of the show was the appearance of a giant inflatable horned devil wearing a Nashville belt buckle. Its eyes were piercing and glowing accompanied by a large evil grin on its face. The devil made his appearance during the prelude to “Devil, Devil” and turned around in a circle which allowed many fans to take photographs. The devil seemed to be a symbol of the evils, downfalls and temptations of the music business. This new edition to the show certainly caught everyone’s attention with many fans hoping it’s a permanent part of future shows (like Iron Maiden’s Eddie).

During the song “These Boots” fans threw boots on stage that Church autographs and tosses back into the audience. It is a known fact that one of Eric’s influences is the Boss, Bruce Springsteen. In fact, one of the highlights of the show was the performance of “Born in the USA/Springsteen.”

When fans go to a concert to see someone or a group perform live they probably don’t realize the men and women behind the scenes that work hard to keep the tour going. All three artists had incredible road crew personnel working before, during and after the show. After each set, these individuals would quickly and flawlessly take down and set up the stage. Everyone from wardrobe, lights, techs, video, make-up, sound, production, management, etc. did a phenomenal job of making it all happen.

All three artists are unique in the country music genre. They keep it real and this is why musicians like Eric Church and Dwight Yoakam continue to sell millions of albums and pack arenas. These artists don’t need to rely on massive stage productions as their music — their instruments and a microphone is all they will ever need. Although this show was at a large venue, fans still had that intimate small club or honky-tonk feel and that is what made this concert so amazing.

For more information on all three artists visit:

Eric Church Official Website: http://ericchurch.com/, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ericchurch, Twitter: @EricChurch

Dwight Yoakam Official Website: http://www.dwightyoakam.com/, https://www.facebook.com/dwightyoakam, and Twitter: @ DwightYoakam

Brandy Clark Official Website: http://brandyclarkmusic.com/, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theBrandyClark, and Twitter: @theBrandyClark

 

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