After making an appearance at Country Thunder in 2011, Eric Church came back this year – and he came back with a bang.

The country superstar was the featured headliner tonight in Florence, where 22 country artists in total are performing over a span of four days at what is often referred to as Arizona’s “Superbowl of country music.”

Church, who was a fan favorite in 2011, stole the show again this time around. Taking the stage just after 9 p.m., Church wasted no time in getting the hits going with titles from his “Carolina” album including “Love Your Love the Most,” “Smoke a Little Smoke,” and “Hell on the Heart.”

With a 90-minute time slot on stage, kept the show going with more recent hits from his 2011 album when he rocked out to “Creepin,” “Springsteen,” and “Homeboy.”

Church’s performance only seemed to grow more emphatic with each song.

Arguably the best part about Church’s performance are not the clever lyrics or even his mad skills on the guitar (which should not be understated) – but the energy he puts into each song, and the obvious love he has for his profession and fans (whom he often interacted with on stage). Wearing his signature aviator lenses, Church stood up to the expectations of a headliner, and then some.

Leading to Church’s stellar performance were some fantastic acts by Jana Kramer (“Why You Wanna”), Love and Theft (“Angel Eyes,” Runaway”), and Tracy Lawrence (“Can’t Break It to My Heart,” “Time Marches On,” “Find Out Who Your Friends Are”).

Relative newcomers and Friday openers Run Boy Run and Greg Bates played like long-time professionals, attracting a larger-than-normal crowd by the early afternoon.

Tomorrow’s performers include Diamond Rio, Lee Brice and Toby Keith, along with new group Parmalee, and the young sensation Morgan Frazier.

Keith, like Church, is returning for his second time in three years, as he served as the event closer in 2011.

Keep an eye on explorernews.com for an interview with Frazier that will be posted in the coming week.

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