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Making good; Church fans grateful for clear skies and a promise kept

The show must go on, the old adage says. Country singer Eric Church made sure it did Thursday night at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center during a sold-out performance rescheduled from earlier this month.

"It is damn good to finally play in Buffalo, New York," Church said after plowing through "Country Music Jesus," "Guys Like Me" and "Hell on the Heart" to begin the set.

Thursday's show was a month in the making.

An ugly scene developed June 1 when some fans became angry, throwing chairs, bottles and cans onto the stage after high winds and safety concerns prevented the headliner from performing at the WYRK Taste of Country concert at Coca-Cola Field.

"I owe the city of Buffalo one, and I intend to make good on that," Church said in a statement at the time.

And make good he did in short time.

In the midst of his "Blood, Sweat and Beers" tour, the defiantly down-home North Carolina-bred country boy backtracked to Western New York for a set of songs about cold beer, good whiskey and muddied trucks and boots. But don't pigeonhole his sound.

Church, with his grizzled everyman looks, Aviator sunglasses and baseball cap, and his band added a dash of Southern rock riffage and pick slide to "Pledge Allegiance to the Hag" (that would be Merle Haggard to the uninformed).

Church's banjo gave a bluegrass twang to "Creepin' " the latest single from 2011's album "Chief," which was emblazoned brightly on the set behind him and on his guitar strap. He toned down the raucousness with the tender acoustic "Sinners Like Me."

"I thought it'd be cool to go back to where we came from -- you, me, a guitar and a song," he said.

Two songs stood out for perfectly capturing that unique country perspective on life and love. "I'm Gettin' Stoned" is a final dismissal to an ex-lover newly married. And only in aw-shucks country music would someone take a giant swig of something that "kicked my ass again last night" as Church did on "Jack Daniels."

"Springsteen" -- Church's anthemic ode to the Boss -- wrapped up the encore and had the crowd going wild with its cell phones lighting up the amphitheater. It was a fitting end to the saga of the canceled/rescheduled show.

Meanwhile, a change of venue and a drastic reversal of weather had everyone in high spirits Thursday before the show.

Melissa Hock of Lancaster, who attended with her brother Jeff Hock of West Seneca and her boyfriend, Brian Munk, left the original show when the "monsoon" hit and it became clear Church wouldn't play.

They were pleased that Church honored his promise with a concert in less than a month -- a minor miracle for a touring musician.

"I'm surprised that he came back," Melissa Hock said. "I don't think a lot people would have come back for a second show."

Jeff Silver, regional vice president of Townsquare Media, which owns WYRK, said his company worked "around the clock for 10 days" with Church to make the show happen.

"Both WYRK and Eric's team were committed to making this show happen," he said.

Everyone who had a ticket for the sold-out June 1 show received one for Thursday's with no extra sales to the public. Many fans entering the venue Thursday said while they understood why the Taste of Country performance was canceled and were originally upset at not seeing the North Carolina-native perform, they were pleased with how the rescheduling was handled.

"I was a little depressed," said Carrie Barlow of Kenmore, who attended with five friends from work. "I was a little mad, because he was the reason I went. But they made it up by doing this. This is even better."

Thursday's bill had a bit of local flavor with Maddie Larkin, a junior at Buffalo Seminary, and JT Hodges opening the show. Both artists performed in March at the WYRK Acoustic Series.

Larkin and her six-piece band the Volunteers were ready for their biggest audience yet as they plowed through a half-hour set of originals and covers as the crowd trickled in to the amphitheater.

Larkin seems poised to take her talents to new heights as evidenced by her confident stage presence.

Fans made out well in the end. Brian Gilmour of Fort Erie, Ont., stayed until the "bitter end" and "pouted all the way home" on June 1.

"It took a little bit of time, but they had everyone's schedule to work around," he said. "It all worked out well."



WHAT: Eric Church    

WHEN: Thursday evening    

WHERE: Darien Lake Performing Arts Center