Concert Review: Eric Church / Lainey Wilson @ SPAC, 08/24/2023
To say that this summer’s weather hasn’t been ideal for outdoor concerts would be an understatement. This past Thursday was no different. Rain blew through Saratoga Springs as a sold-out crowd made their way into Saratoga Performing Arts Center to catch the return of the man they call The Chief, Eric Church. Once again, the rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the 20,000+ fans in attendance. They waited a long time for this show, and nothing would deter them. Church hasn’t been to the Capital District since he played at MVP Arena eight years ago.
On Thursday night, Church made up for his long absence with a two-hour, twenty-five-song set that covered his entire career. He offered up retooled versions of some of his most famous songs. “Drink In My Hand” was slowed down and funked up. Church’s backing band stepped front and center on a stellar version of “Smoke A Little Smoke.” The band includes a full horn section and a trio of backing singers. The band fed off the energy of the crowd. Church ended his set with a rollicking version of “Pledge Allegiance To The Hag.” He returned for a two-song encore of “Springsteen” and “Holding My Own.” That is where the show was meant to end. Instead, he gave the fans a three-song, acoustic medley of “Carolina,” “Sinners Like Me,” and “Love Your Love The Most.” On a night where some acts would have phoned it in, The Chief went above and beyond.
Lainey Wilson occupied the direct support slot, going on just before Church. She was still riding high from her performance in Syracuse the night before, where she set the attendance record for a concert at the Great NYS Fair with an astounding 53,200 fans in attendance. Her set on Thursday night was an abbreviated version of the one from the night before. She played all of her hits and a cover of “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes.
Red Clay Strays opened the night with a thirty-minute set that this reviewer missed while battling the traffic getting into the venue.