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September 1, 2014

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Review: Bad boy Eric Church brings the gospel of country to Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan

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Erik Kabik / Retna / ErikKabik.com

Eric Church performs at the Chelsea on Saturday, April 26, 2014, in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Eric Church at The Chelsea

Eric Church performs at the Chelsea on Saturday, April 26, 2014, in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

North Carolina native Eric Church is the reigning bad boy of country: The award-winning singer-songwriter and musician sings regularly about smoking weed and drinking Jack Daniel’s and doesn’t stick to the norm. He also sings about Jesus.

Church — in an unassuming trucker cap, gray T-shirt, worn blue jeans and brown cowboy boots — brought his tour to the Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan on Saturday night, and it was a hard-rocking and hard-partying evening with a little offstage drama thrown in for good measure. It also was the first country concert in the new venue.

“It’s crazy in Vegas tonight!” Church exclaimed early on, and he couldn’t have been more correct. Highlights of the evening: Pyrotechnics (mostly fire) aplenty punctuated his country rock hits. He promised early on that he would play songs that he hasn’t performed in a long time, and he delivered.

He interacted with his fans often. After singing his first No. 1 hit, “Drink in My Hand,” he told the crowd, “You guys are kicking major ass so far.” He took a few Jack Daniel’s shots with the crowd. Church received long applause midway through the concert after his new hit, “Give Me Back My Hometown,” and said, “We might never leave Las Vegas.”

Church told the audience, his Church choir members, that this was “one of the most special nights I’ve ever had,” then tore up the set list, informing the crowd that his band and he weren’t done playing yet. After “Smoke a Little Smoke,” he quipped, “I can already smell it, so I know you’re smoking.”

During the encore, Church talked of his anticipation for his Outsiders Tour in the fall (“The Outsiders” is the name of his new album) after the standing ovation for “Springsteen,” and audience members took off their cowboy boots and held them in the air during “These Boots.”

During “These Boots,” to the delight of the crowd, Church brought onstage a little boy, Nicholas, who had his little cowboy boots in the air and promptly autographed them after the song. The only negative concert-wise: The sound was distorted at times. That’s not on the Chelsea, though; it’s on Church’s crew.

The nearly two-hour, two-dozen-song set list: “The Outsiders,” “Creepin’,” “Guys Like Me,” “Carolina,” “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag,” “I’m Gettin’ Stoned,” “Drink in My Hand,” “Jack Daniels,” “Like Jesus Does” (the first down-tempo song of the night), “Sinners Like Me,” “Cold One/Chevy Van,” “That’s Damn Rock and Roll,” “Give Me Back My Hometown,” “Homeboy,” “Dark Side,” “Devil, Devil” and “Smoke a Little Smoke.” Encore: “Springsteen/Born to Run,” “These Boots,” “Wrecking Ball” and, surprisingly, the heartfelt ballad “Those I’ve Loved.”

When it’s all said and done, Church is at heart a country boy with a strong voice and a guitar.

Eric Church at Mandalay Bay

Kip Moore opens for Eric Church at Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012.

Launch slideshow »

2012 ACM Awards: Eric Church at Fremont Street Experience

Eric Church performs at Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas on Saturday, March 31, 2012. Launch slideshow »

American idiots

Church and his rockin’ band were nearly upstaged — nearly — by some idiotic activity in the second-level VIP gallery of the Chelsea. Normally, such incidents wouldn’t be worth mentioning in a concert review, but the incidents are still resonating one week later.

One fan was caught stealing a bottle of vodka and hiding it in her purse. (The vodka probably shouldn’t have been out in the first place since nobody had reserved that table for bottle service. But it doesn’t justify stealing it.) Staffers and security took the bottle from her, and she was allowed to stay. She should’ve been offered two options: Pay for the stolen bottle — or leave.

Later in the concert, an older man in Western wear and his wife got into a verbal, then physical, altercation, with a group of younger concertgoers who had moved into seats that clearly weren’t theirs. While there are two sides to every story, the couple were respectful, the younger group loud, obnoxious and immature.

Multiple members of the younger entourage yelled at the elderly couple, swore at them, pointed their fingers in the couple’s faces and, in an act that should’ve led to their removal from the Chelsea, flipped off the older man’s cowboy hat. Trashy and the epitome of the word déclassé. Fortunately, a nearby concertgoer took it upon himself to calm the incident as the younger group thankfully departed.

Everyone — visitors and locals — wants to have a good time in Las Vegas, but it doesn’t mean breaking the law to do so. Criminal and unruly fans: Grow up. Kudos to the Cosmopolitan staff, and the nearby concertgoer, for keeping the peace.

Minnesota singer-songwriter Caitlyn Smith opened the night with a sassy and loud set, and the largely unknown artist won over the crowd. “This is my first time in Las Vegas. Everything is so shiny. It’s overwhelming — I love it!” she told the sold-out crowd amid a 30-minute set that included two covers of songs she wrote that became hits for two other young singers: “Wasting All These Tears” (Cassadee Pope) and “Heart of Dixie” (“The Voice” Season 4 winner Danielle Bradbery).

Upcoming shows at the Chelsea include Childish Gambino (tonight); Bruno Mars (May 23 and 24); Chelsea Handler (June 13 and 14); Kraftwerk 3-D Concert (June 28); Ed Sheeran (Aug. 29 and 30); and Keith Urban (Aug. 31).

Church is a regular Las Vegas headliner, performing in recent years at Red Rock Resort (with Toby Keith), the annual Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena (including a free concert at Fremont Street Experience), the Mandalay Bay Events Center and now the Cosmopolitan.

He’s always welcome in Las Vegas. Unruly fans: Stay away. Thanks to Erik Kabik of Retna for his photo gallery of Church at the Chelsea.

Don Chareunsy is senior editor for arts and entertainment of the Las Vegas Sun.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

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