There are not many venues in the World that bring about an immediate sense of excitement. Madison Square Garden is absolutely one of them. On November 17, 2012, the Zac Brown Band displayed an amplified version of themselves as their performance was one of passion, talent, and excellence. I can honestly say it was the best country music concert I have ever seen.
After short sets from Blackberry Smoke and Levi Lowrey, two acts that Zac has signed to his Southern Ground Record label, the crowd’s energy began to grow each second. The headliners were streamed live on Fuse TV and HD Camera’s were out in full force. As the giant white screen that covered the stage displayed a ten second countdown, the screams, clapping, and cheering from the hyped up crowd was at a defeaning level. The white sheet dropped and the Band ripped right into their #1 hit “Keep Me in Mind”.
The setlist was perfectly planned out, with a rollercoaster feel of fast, upbeat songs to emotional ballads and masterful covers of epic songs. A few songs in, during “Colder Weather”, Zac took off by himself to the middle of the catwalk and looked up at the crowd and around the sold out arena as he sang the powerful lyrics. It was clear to all that Zac could not hold back his emotion as tears began to roll from down his eyes. It was a powerful moment for a fan like me and it was clear that Zac understood the moment.
Most of the Band’s hits were played that night as “Toes”, “Free”, “The Wind” and “Kneep Deep” were instant sing-a-longs. There were songs where each Band Member showcased their jam-band skills. “Who Knows” became a fifteen minute jam out and “Uncaged” was an all out Southern Rock Jam. Zac indicated that he needed to make a new Bucket List because headlining the Garden was at the top of his current list.
There was even an acoustic set where the Band sat on crates and barrels at the front of the catwalk as they played a new song called “One Day”‘ and covered “All Apologies” by Nirvana and “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith. Combine that set with the cover of Metallica’s “Enter the Sandman” during the bombastic encore and I challenge you to find me another band, be it in country music or any other genre, with the range to be able to pull off each of those classics without a flaw.
At one point, Zac’s father surprised him on stage during “Highway 20 Ride” as they shared an emotional hug. There was a drum off between Chris Fryar and Daniel De Los Reyes. Jimmy D’Martini ripped out fiddle solos that had people shaking their heads in amazement. Clay Cook took over vocals on “Can’t You See”‘ and took over the catwalk on several amazing electric guitar rifts with the charisma that only he contains. Coy Bowles and John Hopkins switched instruments from guitars, Cellos, mandolins, to steel guitars. There was not a second where each Band member wasn’t a key part of the act, each equipped with immense skill and musical talent.
Of course the night ended with the biggest hit of the Band’s career thus far, “Chicken Fried”. The entire crowd exploded as the Band played the megahit with grace, passion and pride. The crowd danced and sang with sheer happiness. Zac and the Band took a bow and thanked the crowd. After the two plus hour set, I found myself more satisfied with a live concert performance than ever before.
I saw ZBB for the first time, in February 2009, when they were a relatively unknown Band playing the small Bowery Ballroom in NYC. I was there a year later when they upgraded to Terminal 5, a ballroom sized venue in the City. Last summer, I was there at Metlife Stadium when they served as the opening act on Kenny Chesney’s Stadium tour. But Zac understood this moment, he understood what it meant to headline at Madison Square Garden. During “Colder Weather” he showed the emotion and the entire Band responded with an epic performance sure to be talked about for years to come. I’m sure everyone hopes they return to the Garden year after year. I just don’t know how another show can ever compare to his one. #ZBBMSG lived up to the hype and much more.
- Keep Me In Mind
- As She’s Walking Away
- The Wind
- Colder Weather
- Natural Disaster
- Goodbye In Her Eyes
- Who Knows
- The Problem with Freedom (w/ Levi Lowrey)
- All Apologies (Nirvana Cover)
- One Day
- Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith Cover)
- Fiddle Intro into Free
- Into the Mystic (Van Morrison Cover)
- Whiskey’s Gone
- Can’t You See (Marshall Tucker Band Cover with Blackberry Smoke)
- Knee Deep
- Highway 20 Ride
- Devil Went Down To Georgia (Charlie Daniels Band Cover)
- Percussion/Drum Solo (with Massif)
- Jump Right In (Encore)
- Enter the Sandman (Encore – Metallica Cover)
- America The Beautiful (Encore)
- Chicken Fried (Encore)