Eric Church’s Blood, Sweat & Beers Tour, which hits Comcast Arena in Everett Tuesday, has been experiencing record-breaking sales and rave reviews, but the North Carolina native’s Country Music Association win two weeks ago for Album of the Year is a game changer.
Previously an opening act for Miranda Lambert and Toby Keith, the 35-year-old country rocker earned the right to headline his own tour with two No. 1 singles — “Drink in My Hand” and “Springsteen” — from his 2011 platinum-selling album, “Chief.” But Church’s bad-ass attitude, focus on song-writing and unconventional tour etiquette — he was kicked off a 2006 Rascal Flatts tour for playing too loud and too long — have made it difficult for him to break into the Nashville establishment.
Church is nothing if not unconventional. Known as a “hat act” — industry talk for behatted cowboys like Garth Brooks and Clint Black — Church foregoes a Stetson in favor of a ball cap and aviator shades. He’s known for frequent bursts of self-inflicted excitement on stage that are so infectious his fans can’t stop commenting about them on Twitter. His fans also know all the words to his radio singles — “Love Your Love The Most,” “Hell in the Heart,” “Guys Like Me” and “Two Pink Lines” — and have variously called the Blood, Sweat & Beers Tour wild, loud, sophisticated, artistic, smart, thoughtful, rowdy and ready for prime time.
Church’s popularity netted him a coveted April 2012 Rolling Stone interview but also landed him in more trouble. This time he upset Lambert and Blake Shelton for saying competition reality shows don’t churn out “true” artists. Lambert immediately took to Twitter and blasted her former opening act. Lambert got her start on the show “Nashville Star” and her husband, Shelton, is a judge on NBC’s “The Voice.”
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During last week’s CMA Awards show, Shelton, who won Male Vocalist of the Year, paid homage to all the other nominees in that category — except Church. The snub didn’t seem to faze Church. His performance of “Springsteen,” infused with “Born to Run” licks, earned him a standing ovation from the Nashville audience. Even Bruce Springsteen sent a handwritten note through his road manager, Wayne LeBeaux, acknowledging the tribute.
“I hope we cross paths somewhere,” wrote the Boss, on the back of a set list.
The Blood, Sweat & Beers Tour features opening acts Justin Moore (“If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away”) and Kip Moore (“Something About a Truck”) — they are not related — who have also been well-received by fans and critics alike.
According to Church, the two Moores can play as loud and as long as they like.
Lou Lunden: Lou@backcountry.com