You got to hand it to ol’ Eric Church. He learned a few things while earning that marketing degree from Appalachia State. He wanted to be one of the first in country music—and really in most of all popular music—to book and promote a big crowded post-pandemic arena tour starting this fall. And so not to run afoul of the COVID police, a few days before announcing the tour he signed up to be the featured artist for April’s Billboard Magazine, including getting his vaccine shot right there on the cover to compel everyone else to do the same.
Church wasn’t trying to sow COVID fear or guilt people into getting a shot necessarily. His approach was simply, “Dude! Don’t you want to enjoy live shows again? I know I do. So get the damn shot.” And it’s a pretty convincing argument, and a fairly ingenious one, peppered with a little bit of publicity risk from the polarizing nature of the subject to some of his fan base.
But this is all in line with the pragmatic approach Eric Church has brought to his career during a time when political fervor has been brought to a fevered pitch, especially for country artists. Church has been a pretty good pitch person for the causes he’s championed, which often boils down to just being reasonable about polarizing subjects, and seeing both sides of any argument. That was what was so damaging about a 2018 Rolling Stone cover featuring Church, which portrayed him as an anti-gun socialist, while the information in the actual article was seismically different.
“I just want to play shows,” Church said in the Billboard story. “Politics’ job is to divide — that’s how you win elections. Those things that unite us are music and sports. The times when, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican or whatever, you throw your arm around the person next to you. We become one. We need that. I need that.”
But ultimately, I’m not sure Eric Church needed to make such a big, public stance on his vaccination. Strangely, after a full year of COVID-19, and the lockdowns and even mask wearing being divisive issues to many, there seems to be more of a universal understanding now that it’s time to start making the motions towards getting back to normal, and the social media hall monitors and busybodies on the subject have thinned out significantly.
And despite rising cases in some states and a plateauing nationally, the proliferation of the vaccine likely means there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for safe congregations, even at arenas. The guilt and blow back Eric Church and promoters were probably anticipating at the news of the upcoming arena tour just didn’t materialize in any tangible way.
After Eric Church announced his arena tour on Wednesday (4-7), Kane Brown announced one of his own the next day. Smaller, more independent artists are also starting to fill up their calendars, including Whiskey Myers, Cody Jinks, Charley Crockett, Jesse Daniel, Mike and the Moonpies, Brent Cobb and Kendell Marvell who are touring together, while festivals like Bristol Rhythm and Roots, AmericanaFest, Under Big Sky in Montana, and more are confirming their 2021 dates, while other festivals are scrambling to see if they can pull off a 2021 event as well.
Things are starting to open up, and luckily, not along the lines of a culture war, but with a more universal understanding that it’s time, and safe when done right. There’s no doubt that vaccines and other COVID-related topics will remain polarizing for some, as will Eric Church, who sometimes can be too inclined to make something about himself (i.e. getting his vaccine shot on the front of a magazine).
But whether you believe every adult should be lining up for the vaccine, or that arena shows should return post haste for the benefit of the communities and venues and workers and all of our sanity, Eric Church took the lead, which seems appropriate for the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Tickets go on sale May 7th. Church says shows will be done “In the round” with a 360 in the center of arenas to facilitate large crowds. No openers have been announced at the moment.
The Gather Again Tour dates:
Sept. 17, 2021 – Rupp Arena Lexington, Ky.
Sept. 18, 2021 – Nationwide Arena Columbus, Ohio
Sept. 24, 2021 – Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse Cleveland, Ohio
Sept. 25, 2021 – KeyBank Center Buffalo, N.Y.
Oct. 1, 2021 – Alerus Center Grand Forks, N.D.
Oct. 2, 2021 – Bell MTS Place Winnipeg, Manitoba
Oct. 8, 2021 – PPG Paints Arena Pittsburgh, Pa.
Oct. 9, 2021 – Wells Fargo Center Philadelphia, Pa.
Oct. 15, 2021 – Ball Arena Denver, Colo.
Oct. 22, 2021 – Scotiabank Saddledome Calgary, Alberta
Oct. 23, 2021 – SaskTel Centre Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Oct. 29, 2021 – Rogers Arena Vancouver, British Columbia
Oct. 30, 2021 – Climate Pledge Arena Seattle, Wash.
Nov. 12, 2021 – Thompson-Boling Arena Knoxville, Tenn.
Nov. 13, 2021 – Ford Center Evansville, Ind.
Dec. 3, 2021 – SNHU Arena Manchester, N.H.
Dec. 4, 2021 – UBS Arena Belmont Park, N.Y.
Dec. 10, 2021 – The Anthem Washington, D.C.
Dec. 11, 2021 – The Anthem Washington, D.C.
Dec. 17, 2021 – Bon Secours Wellness Arena Greenville, S.C.
Dec. 18, 2021 – Greensboro Coliseum Greensboro, N.C.
Jan. 7, 2022 – Pinnacle Bank Arena Lincoln, Neb.
Jan. 8, 2022 – Denny Sanford PREMIER Center Sioux Falls, S.D.
Jan. 14, 2022 – Scotiabank Arena Toronto, Ontario
Jan. 15, 2022 – Canadian Tire Centre Ottawa, Ontario
Jan. 21, 2022 – Van Andel Arena Grand Rapids, Mich.
Jan. 22, 2022 – Little Caesars Arena Detroit, Mich.
Feb. 4, 2022 – KFC Yum! Center Louisville, Ky.
Feb. 5, 2022 – Bankers Life Fieldhouse Indianapolis, Ind.
Feb. 11, 2022 – CHI Health Center Omaha Omaha, Neb.
Feb. 12, 2022 – Wells Fargo Arena Des Moines, Iowa
Feb. 18, 2022 – T-Mobile Center Kansas City, Mo.
Feb 19, 2022 – BOK Center Tulsa, Okla.
Feb. 25, 2022 – Hampton Coliseum Hampton, Va.
Feb. 26, 2022 – Spectrum Center Charlotte, N.C.
March 4, 2022 – Amway Center Orlando, Fla.
March 5, 2022 – Amalie Arena Tampa, Fla.
March 11, 2022 – United Center Chicago, Ill.
March 12, 2022 – Enterprise Center St. Louis, Mo.
March 18, 2022 – Resch Center Green Bay, Wis.
March 19, 2022 – Resch Center Green Bay, Wis.
March 25, 2022 – Legacy Arena at the BJCC Birmingham, Ala.
March 26, 2022 – Simmons Bank Arena Little Rock, Ark.
April 1, 2022 – Dickies Arena Fort Worth, Texas
April 2, 2022 – AT&T Center San Antonio, Texas
April 8, 2022 – Toyota Center Houston, Texas
April 9, 2022 – Smoothie King Center New Orleans, La.
April 15, 2022 – Moda Center Portland, Ore.
April 16, 2022 – Spokane Arena Spokane, Wash.
April 29, 2022 – ExtraMile Arena Boise, Idaho
April 30, 2022 – Vivint Arena Salt Lake City, Utah
May 6, 2022 – Pechanga Arena San Diego, Calif.
May 7, 2022 – STAPLES Center Los Angeles, Calif.
May 11, 2022 – Golden 1 Center Sacramento, Calif.
May 13, 2022 – T-Mobile Arena Las Vegas, Nev.
May 14, 2022 – Gila River Arena Glendale, Ariz.
May 20, 2022 – Madison Square Garden New York, N.Y.