Eric Church / Cadillac Three - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire
Walking into the foyer you’re immediately struck by the t-shirt slogans: “Eric Fucking Church” indeed. Won't someone think of the children, for heaven's sake? A night with the self-styled badass of US country music, Eric Church, may reinforce some of the preconceptions you have about him, but also probably kicks the main one in touch.
He sings about drink, drugs, and women, or variations thereof across most of his tunes, and his show at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire is heavy on that unholy trinity: ‘Jack Daniels’, an expectedly rousing ‘Drink In My Hand’ - and he’s accompanied by the usual pint of JD and coke for the duration. Whilst this is a smoke-free venue, old Mary Jane gets a name-drop (“I’m gonna get stoned in London tonight!”), while the show opens with ‘Smoke A Little Smoke’, and also includes ‘I’m Stoned’. Also present and correct are another four guitarists and a drummer meaning that you get something else you’re expecting: a rockier, harder version of country than you’ll hear from some of his peers. So far, so Eric Church.
But the main thing you notice though is his stage persona. EC isn't the man you expect; this is no moody, bad boy cowboy. This is a grinning, laughing, cowboy boot-waving (on ‘These Boots’) showman, with an almost childlike enthusiasm for performance. As a result, a Church show is much more fun than you might have expected. Praise be!
Show openers Cadillac Three are also great fun. They’re noisier than the main act. You're expecting loud and they don't disappoint, the only negative is the vocals; they're somewhat lost in the drums and dual guitars, mainly due to the dumbing down of the sound that happens to opening acts.
The Nashville natives are long haired, baseball cap wearing rednecks (their term!) and they know how to play hard. Most impressive are their groove heavy tunes and masterful pacing of their live set. The tunes aren’t just thrown out as carbon copies of their album - ‘Tennessee Mojo’ is a low slung groove, slowed down to a snail's pace then cranked back up. The acoustic on record ‘White Lightning’ is given a slightest electrification, and the closing drum frenzy with frontman Jaren Johnston ditching his battered guitar and joining sticksman Neil Mason on the drums amps up the noise to a frenzy.
It’s thrilling stuff, fully appreciated by a much larger crowd than supports can usually expect. There are even pockets of standing ovation at the end of their half hour. An impressive attempt to steal the night and just a taster for their headline show at The Garage the following night.