Concert Review: Zac Brown Band Always Up For A Good Time
Atlanta-based country multi-instrumentalists Zac Brown Band rolled into the iThink Financial Amphitheater in West Palm Beach on Sunday (October 9) on a usual steamy and humid night in South Florida. The jam-packed amphitheater welcomed the ensemble who last played the same locale just one year ago. There is a tremendous amount of energy for the always sold-out show whenever Brown and company make their way south of their home base in Georgia.
As fans settled in, it was announced that they show would be broken into three acts that would all feature their own unique musical surprises and backdrops.
It was the muscular Brown, decked out in an Iron Maiden muscle shirt, who took the stage solo for an acoustic rendition of “Toes,” a song released in 2009 that was a number one hit that year and put the feel-good tune on radios across America. He was joined on stage in a makeshift bar with a few selected friends who got the greatest meet-and-greet experience of their lives. As songs two and three played, he began introducing his bandmates one at a time until he was joined by all of them by the time they got into the fourth tune of the night, “As She’s Walking Away.” These talented musicians include John Driskell Hopkins, Jimmy De Martini, Clay Cook, Coy Bowles, Matt Mangano, Daniel de los Reyes, and Chris Fryar. New York City-born country sensation Caroline Jones has also been a part of the current tour as an honorary band member.
From there Brown and company wasted no time, quickly getting into a blend of country covers that included Alabama’s 1983 tune “Dixieland Delight,” Dolly Parton’s 1980 hit “9 to 5,” and Randy Travis’ 1987 wedding favorite ballad “Forever and Ever Amen.”
The second act took an already fun and energetic show to the next level. It was at the start of the second act that we saw the addition of horn, a talented threesome** who were joined by two back-up singers who would add to the already great sound that was emanating from the band. Brown’s setlist included feel-good tune “Keep Me In Mind” that kept the crowd slow-dancing while smiles beamed as they sang along with Brown. The crowd, now fully engaged, raised their beers and danced as they got into summer tune “Jump Right In” and “Knee Deep.” One of the true highlights of the night came when the band closed out the second act with a cover of Charlie Daniels 1979 Grammy-Award winning hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” It was during this song that we saw how truly close Jimmy De Martini could come to replicating Daniels’ masterful fiddle prowess. This was the song that got the everyone over the top and showcased many of the band’s true talents.
**(Chris Brouwers, trumpet, Greg Sanderson, tenor saxophone, and Josh Schwartz, baritone saxophone, call themselves The Horn Section. They were part of the powerhouse band Turkuaz and are now with Cool Cool Cool, which features seven of the nine members of the former band. They have been on the entire tour with Zac Brown Band and Robert Randolph Band since April.)
The third and final act included show opener Robert Randolph joining Zac Brown Band on stage for a series of sing-along songs from nearly every genre of music. This is where the show took a turn from watching the concert to becoming a part of the show where tough-looking men found themselves on the projection screens singing songs from Michael Jackson to Lionel Ritchie; it was quite a sight. The variety of songs gave each band member a chance to sing an individual song, proving that they could sing in additional to playing their instruments. The bevy of songs included Pharrell’s “Happy” (de los Reyes), Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” (Jones), and Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long (Hopkins). It was fun to see Brown sing the Rick Astley tune “Never Gonna Give You Up,” followed by the Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak funky soul jam “Fly as Me.”
By now the crowd was worked up into a frenzy; they had been singing and dancing for nearly the entire show. However, there was still some unfinished business; they still wanted a bit more, and perhaps they got a little more than they asked for when Zac Brown Band got into fan-favorite tune “Chicken Fried.” The feel-good song once again featured Jimmy De Martini’s fiddle, and at the half way point the song slowed to a guitar strum as the band was joined on stage by a serviceman who saluted the crowd during an emotional moment where plenty of tears were shed and Brown proclaimed, “So we can be safe in the greatest country in the world” before the song continued. If that wasn’t enough, the final tune of the night was “Homegrown,” where once again the crowd joined in and sang along with the band. One thing is for sure, Zac Brown Band knows how to deliver a fun and engaging concert, one that everyone looks forward to year after year regardless of hearing the same songs.
Set 1: 1) Toes, 2) Free / Into the Mystic 3)Whiskey’s Gone, 4) As She’s Walking Away, 5) Dixieland Delight / Forever and Ever, Amen / 9 to 5 / Dixieland Delight, 6) Wild Palomino 7) Same Boat
Set 2: 8) Keep Me in Mind 9) Out in the Middle 10) Sweet Annie 11) The Comeback 12) Jump Right In 13) GA Clay 14) Knee Deep / You Are the Best Thing / Knee Deep 15) The Devil Went Down to Georgia (The Charlie Daniels Band cover)
Set 3: 16) That’s The Way (I Like It) / Brick House / Kiss / Sir Duke / Cruisin’ / Poison / Sledgehammer / All Night Long / The Way You Make Me Feel / (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman / Happy / Never Gonna Give You Up / Fly as Me 17) Colder Weather 18) Chicken Fried (With Soldier salute) 19) Homegrown