Church’s latest release, The Outsiders, isn’t just the namesake of his current tour; the album represents the country star’s attempt to correct what he sees as a noise deficit in his genre. “Nobody’s loud,” Church complained to Rolling Stone in 2012. “It’s all very fuckin’ Peter, Paul and Mary shit.” As country softens around him, Church’s music gets more muscular, and now he’s bringing his tuneful racket to Madison Square Garden.
Church has always been a reliable genre performer, turning out top-ten country albums that sell half a million copies. But he burst into the larger consciousness in 2011 with a rousing pop hit titled “Springsteen,” a powerful homage to the Boss. The Outsiders debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 earlier this year.
The 6'2", perennially aviator-sporting Church is a commanding performer, but there’s more to his act than chest-beating. In one of the biggest hits on the new album, “Give Me Back My Hometown,” Church trades growling for a pretty croon. He also has good taste in opening acts: Dwight Yoakam, a legend whose sound reaches back to classic honky-tonk, and Brandy Clark, whose debut, 12 Stories, came out last year to universal acclaim.—Elias Leight