Eric Church Sets Attendance Record With Double Down Tour in Nashville
Here’s a bit of recent music history for you: Who is the first country music act to solo headline Nissan Stadium in Nashville? And also set the attendance record?
That would be Eric Church, who accomplished this unprecedented feat on Saturday (May 25), hosting his Double Down Tour in Music City without a co-headliner or even a support act at the 60,000 capacity venue. (File that away for your Jeopardy appearance someday).
According to Pollstar, Church has been “grossing between $2 million to $3 million per two-night arena stand across the country on his Double Down Tour.” Fans probably feel they get their money’s worth, as Church generally performs an astonishing three hours per show. Nashville’s 37-song, three-hour-plus set (that ended near 1AM) was no exception.
“If I die up here, I’m gonna die up here," Church said from stage. "I’m gonna give you all I got.”
The country star opened his first of two sets with 2018’s “Drowning Man” before burning through “Country Music Jesus,” “That’s Damn Rock & Roll,” “Creepin',” and “Over When It’s Over” for his first five songs. His backup singer, Joanna Cotten, was featured early and often throughout the night—her powerful backing vocals a crucial piece of Church’s onstage sound.
Church and his band were backed by three massive onstage video screens and a three-pronged catwalk (resembling the head of a pitchfork), expanding Church's reach from stage to nearly the 50-yard-line in some spots. It’s built for better crowd interaction, which Church took advantage of: strutting the catwalk, signing autographs, giving high-fives and blending into the on-field audience for certain songs.
Still donning the aviator shades that branded his look since 2011’s breakout album Chief, Church looked comfortable onstage. "I came here 15 years ago and I had dreams," he said. "But I’m not sure I could dream this big. This night’s a special night for me."
Church’s Hard and Soft Edge
Though the bad-assery of his brand stems from songs such as “Drink in My Hand,” “The Outsiders” and “Smoke A Little Smoke,” Church has a deep catalog of slow to mid-tempo songs (e.g. “Mixed Drinks About Feelings,” “Like A Wrecking Ball”) that strike equally as hard, but in a much different way. It’s the type of concert where you can see fans smiling and crying at the same time.
Of course, beer-drinking anthems such as “Drink in My Hand’ (which Church played three songs into his second set) elicit the response you’d expect from a Saturday night Nashville crowd—but what’s impressive about Church’s legion of fans, dubbed the “Church Choir,” is they didn’t just fire up their voices for the 17 radio singles he performed.
The crowd sings along to deep cuts from a 2006 album? That happens at an Eric Church show. They know his song catalog, not just the hits.
Double Down, Double Set
Church skillfully sets up his marathon show into two sets, a craft he began dabbling with on his Outsiders World Tour in 2014. However, the sets, in a sense, serve as two separate shows. Set one wasn’t just a warmup for set two; it was a complete show with eight radio singles (“Record Year,” “Mr. Misunderstood,” “Cold One,” “Talladega,” “How ’Bout You,” “Creepin’,” “Desperate Man,” “Homeboy”) and a mashup finisher that included a hybrid of Queen, Def Leppard, Bob Seger, Neil Diamond, Travis Tritt, Billy Joel, Joan Jett and Church’s “Mistress Named Music.”
Set two included nine radio singles (“The Outsiders,” “Drink In My Hand,” “Round Here Buzz,” “Kill A Word,” “Some Of It,” “Like A Wrecking Ball,” “Give Me Back My Hometown,” “Smoke A Little Smoke,” “Springsteen”) and a three-song encore that sandwiched Church’s highest streamed song “Springsteen” (167 million Spotify plays) in between “Those I’ve Loved” and a combo of Jackson Browne’s “The Load Out” and “Stay.”
It was during “Springsteen” that Church gave his last, long, heartfelt thanks to the record-breaking crowd of 56,521. “I had no idea that this could happen, so I thank you [from the] bottom of my heart,” Church said. “I thank you Nashville, I thank the Church Choir from all over the country. I thank you for your passion. I thank you for believing in music in a world where it gets kind of disposable with a lot of the other shit that’s going on. It’s still about music, just like it’s always been. And that’s what this is, so bottom of my heart, thank you for tonight.”
Church’s fan attendance narrowly beats out the previous venue record held by Taylor Swift, who corralled 56,112 fans during her Reputation tour stop in 2018.
Welcome to the record books, Eric Church!
The Double Down Tour is currently scheduled to wrap on Nov. 23 in Sacramento, Calif.
See Pictures of Eric Church Through the Years: