Zac Brown Band Takes Over Fenway Park

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Zac Brown Band – Fenway Park, Boston, MA (August 21, 2016)

Written by Jody Smith

It is not an original thought by now, but the Zac Brown Band (ZBB) may not only be the best touring band in country music, but the best band touring, period.  Their pure musical talent is obvious, but their diversity of music styles show off not only their musical abilities, but their collective voices and creativity.  They continued with that diversity this weekend at Fenway Park in Boston, MA, where Zac pledged a “no repeat weekend” … and yes, they delivered. The fans that follow them are just as diverse, in age, as there were children in attendance all the way up to seniors.
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I have been to ZBB shows prior to his sell outs where they had a cast of bands with them because there was not enough in the arsenal to fill a show.  I have been to sold out shows from New Hampshire to Mexico in recent years to see ZBB. It is not a stretch to say Zac and his band seem to get better and better.
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After seeing the set list for Saturday and knowing this weekend was a page from the Grateful Dead as a no repeat weekend, I was a bit skeptical about Sunday.  If Saturday was Dr. Jekyll, then I was predicting Mr. Hyde for Sunday.   What we got was that and then some. The first set was an emotional roller coaster.  The show opened with Jump Right In and stayed with Uncaged for The Wind, and then things got interesting.  In a Jerry Garcia-esqe way,  they rolled into Where the Boat Leaves From into One Love.   Fenway was on fire, so why not a chance for everyone to sing S.O.B?  It was time to bring the heart rates down with more from Uncaged and Jekyll + Hyde prior to reflection time, which came the way of Dress Blues.  This song, on it’s own, is a potential Kleenex grabber for all, but when Zac brought out a WW II Veteran Fenway did what Fenway does…. erupted in unison! An amazing tribute to the Greatest Generation.
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Well , the expression goes you cant keep a good man down so it has to be Metallica time featuring John Driskell Hopkins on vocals.  Did I say an emotional first set?  Not done, yet the flow continued with Highway 20 Ride and then the stools came out. Zac Brown side by side with legendary recording artist Mac McAnally for Jimmy Buffett favorite A Pirate Looks A Forty !  The set finished with a couple more acoustics and then it was beer:30 and time for a well deserved break.
The second set was filled with many from You Get What You Give , as well as what has now become the obligatory Heavy is the Head.   The surprises however where not complete , an amazing version of Aviccii’s Broken Arrows followed by a performance of 11 year old piano prodigy Joey Alexander and if your going to play in Fenway you bring out Ken Casey one of the lead signers of Dropkick Murphys’ to do of course, Shipping Up To Boston.   The night finished with yet another tribute to Prince and topped off by Homegrown and I think the 36,000 were pumped up and exhausted all at the same time.
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If you managed to survive both shows at Fenway you got to hear 45 different songs performed by ZBB.  In a day in age where most performers barely have enough music that people want to hear in one night,  ZBB delivered a flawless two night no-repeat weekend.  Zac seemed so energized and grateful for the crowds.  He recognized the 7 sold out shows at Fenway (a new venue record) and seemed very appreciative.  Yep , you can have all the rest , I will take ZBB vs. the field.
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Eric Church: The Red Rocks Experience

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Eric Church – Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado (August 9 & 10, 2016)

Written by Kristin Hamlin

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the first of an epic two night special acoustic event by Eric Church at the legendary Red Rocks.  Lightning flashes went off everywhere, but never a sound all night, but there was no rain.  It was almost as if the Heavens were enjoying this show as well. 

Eric Church.  Two words, but one big meaning. 

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 I was fortunate to land sixth row, smack dab in the center at Red Rocks for both nights of Eric Church last week.  I have been to my share of concerts at this Amphitheatre, but I knew this time would be different.   The way the stage was set up was as if you were in Eric’s living room; rugs and candles lit the stage, with just a piano and a microphone. 

 You could hear a pin drop as the lights went down and Eric was about to come on stage.  As soon as those familiar ray bans and side smirk became visible, the crowd erupted into a standing ovation.  Eric sat there in awe for a about a minute, taking it all in, and then the familiar chords of ‘Mistress Named Music’ started playing, and everyone began to sing as loud as they could, never missing a beat.  What none of us were expecting, was when Eric broke out into covers of other people’s songs in the middle of Mistress.  (like a rock, ain’t got money, piano man, troubadours) and then ended it with the last chorus of Mistress.  It was incredible.

 Without missing a beat, he flowed into ‘Mr. Misunderstood’.  The crowd was so loud singing it back to him, he let us sing the chorus to him, and as we did, he just smiled and mouthed ‘thank you for this’ to us.  That was definitely one of my favorite parts of the night.  He then went on to sing Smoke, Drink in my Hand and Record Year, and then ‘Mixed Drinks About Feelings’.  Next was his upcoming single, ‘Kill a Word’, and before singing it, he told the crowd how he didn’t think there was a more appropriate song to sing with all that has been going on in the world.  The passion in the way he sang this song was goosebump-worthy, as you could tell this song meant a whole lot to him. Then came ‘Pledge Allegiance to the Hag’, ‘Rock and roll Jesus’, ‘Homeboy’, ‘Creepin’, ‘Dark Side’ ‘Living part of life’, ‘Jack Daniels’, and ‘Wrecking Ball’ – where he even had Peyton Manning jamming right behind him.  The crowd didn’t miss a word!

 What happened next warmed everyone’s hearts.  Eric spoke quietly and said ‘I promised someone I would play this…I hope I can make it through the song’ and turned around to where his son was sitting and blew him a kiss.  ‘Three Year Old’ was the song he sang for him and  I teared up watching him singing it, because I knew behind those sun glasses, he was doing the same thing.  It was absolutely magical. Then came ‘Cold One’ and ‘Chattanooga Lucy’ and the energy was wild!

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Next, Eric had said the next song he had never played live before, but he wanted to play it because the first time he came to Red Rocks, this song came on his bus, and it stuck with him so much, and he had told his band just hours before he was going to play it.  The second the first verse came from his mouth, the audience didn’t make a sound, and we all watched in awe as Eric played Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ – his voice as strong as I’ve ever heard it.  It was probably at that moment, that I realize I was witnessing the best live act I have ever seen in my life.  I have never been that impressed and touched with any artist I’ve seen, but this show was much different. 

 He followed that by singing ‘Knives of New Orleans’, ‘These Boots’, ‘Talladega’ and ‘Holding My Own’ and bowed his head and said thank you again and left the stage.  The crowd, who never sat down once, chanted his name, and in seconds, Eric was back out, singing my personal favorite ‘Those I’ve Loved’.  This was the best closing song I could think of.

The show the next night was completely different, which made this concert experience unlike any other.  He had said he had one song he knew he was going to sing for sure, and the rest he just made up as it went, following the energy of the crowd.  As soon as the show ended, the quiet lightning stopped.