Eric Church closes Iowa State Fair's first weekend, nearly breaks attendance records

Jay Stahl
Des Moines Register
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Country superstar Eric Church ended the Iowa State Fair’s first weekend with an energizing Sunday set at the Grandstand. 

The show marked the State Fair’s second most attended concert in recent history with 17,283 tickets sold, just under Chris Stapleton’s 17,320 record in 2021. 

Church’s epic return to the fair arrived after rain sprinkled concertgoers during opener Jackson Dean’s set. Dean, the newcomer of "Don't Come Lookin" fame, and his twangy three-member band brought the crowd to their feet with catchy choruses, gritty vocals and guitar mastery. 

After a brief intermission, Church came on stage in his signature pitch black shades to kick off his show with the boot scooting “Chattanooga Lucy" with smooth harmonies from his background singers before singing "Bad Mother Trucker," a rock-infused track.

Country superstar Eric Church told fans they could say they were in church until 11 p.m. Sunday.

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“We’ve been here many, many times. It’s one of my favorite times to play,” Church said. “You can tell your coworkers that you were in church until at least 11 o’clock."

Church heated up the audience with a performance of "Heart on Fire" in his simple paired down uniform: the sunglasses, jeans and a T-shirt. 

A soulful rendition of the tambourine- and saxophone-heavy “Bring It Around” featured tinges of Motown sprinkled throughout. Concertgoers hoisted cups of beer above their heads during “Drink In My Hand.”

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Church holds Sunday night service at Iowa State Fair Grandstand

Country superstar Eric Church kept fans on their feet at the Iowa State Fair.

Church performed “Country Music Jesus,” an ode to Johnny Cash and the realities of rural life, then launched into “Mr. Misunderstood.”

Then, Church sang “Some of It,” just the second time he had performed the song in concert in recent years.

“Everybody sins and nobody wins in a fight and sometimes wrong is right,” the audience recited during the rare treat.

The catchy, outlaw country number “Creepin’” followed before Church played “Round Here Buzz” with a lyric change to “never been east of Ames or Iowa City” in place of "never been east of Dallas," which elicited cheers. Then, the country legend belted “Russian Roulette,” a track steeped in rebellion as his fingers danced during guitar strums.

Eric Church changed the lyrics to "Round Here Buzz" to "Never been east of Ames or Iowa City." The crowd loved it.

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The North Carolina native sang "Livin Part of Life” and “Smoke a Little Smoke." In Iowa’s capital city, Church serenaded with “Give Me Back My Hometown” and then a guitar riff heavy cover of Little Feat's “Sailin’ Shoes” came as audience members tapped their cowboy boots. Then, the Grammy Award nominee sang the funky "Cold One" with a trombone solo that stole the show. 

“Pledge Allegiance to the Hag,” a celebration of the country legend Merle Haggard, united the audience in song as they held up cups of beer. Then, Church exited the stage, but a massive audience effort led to an encore.

A few moments later, Church returned to play “Sinners Like Me,” the 2006 slow-burning fan favorite from the star’s debut. “Springsteen” ended the Sunday night service show as the crowd participated in the song's famous "oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-ohs."

The country music superstar blew a kiss to the crowd and bid another trip to the Iowa State Fair farewell.

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Jay Stahl is an entertainment reporter at The Des Moines Register. Follow him on Instagram or reach out at

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