Recalling My First Zac Brown Band Experience (February 2009)

Zac Brown Band
with Levi Lowery, Sonia Leigh and Nic Cowan
Bowery Ballroom, New York City
February 3, 2009

My first ZAC BROWN BAND experience dates back to February 3, 2009 in New York City.  My wife and I had just purchased “The Foundation” a few weeks before after hearing “Chicken Fried” on radio and heard that this new band was playing an intimate performance at the Bowery Ballroom in New York.  We bought tickets and had NO idea what to expect.  While we were really enjoying the cd we bought, we did not know if they would play a long set, be a talented live act, or even sound good live. 

We were treated to an acoustic set by Levi Lowery and Sonia Leigh with her band as opening acts, both of who were fantastic.  Before they got on stage we had no idea who they were or what they would turn out to today.  To this day, we are huge fans of both. 

But when Zac, Clay, Coy, Jimmy, John and Chris came on stage that snowy night in NYC, magic happened.  My wife and I were absolutely mesmerized by the Band. 

They sounded incredible, were talented as can be, and went on to play a three hour show complete with every track from “The Foundation”, as well as covers of other songs and soon to be released classics.  I have been to well over 150 concerts and never have I ever been so impressed by a band after seeing them live for the first time. 

In fact, if I recall correctly, Zac said to the crowd that it was the first concert that Clay Cook was performing with the Band and was officially set to join them.  Moreover, Nic Cowan came out at the end of the set and sang a few songs with the Band. 

Of course Zac’s vocals and guitar skills were impressive, but it was Jimmy De Martini’s fiddle skills that blew us away more than anything.  Never have I seen a musician play an instrument so skilled and with such smooth passion.

Being in a New York City venue, where Country Music is typically frowned upon, everyone was in firm agreement that the Zac Brown Band was something special.  I actually turned to my wife that night and said “in a few years, this will be the biggest act in Country Music”.  My words are becoming truth.

Zac actually stayed on the stairwell after the show and we took three pictures with him and spoke about his music. 

He said his Mom was in the crowd that night and he was so humbled to have played in New York City with her there.

  It was an incredible experience and although we have been to over a dozen ZBB shows since, nothing will ever compare to the first time. 

Video of My Wife & I on stage with Dierks Bentley

This video just surfaced and I thought I’d share it with my readers. 
 Check out the story behind the video on these following sites:
and
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Toby Keith & Eric Church – Locked, Loaded, & Fired Up in Jersey

Toby Keith’s Locked & Loaded Tour
Featuring Eric Church
PNC Arts Center, Holmdel, New Jersey
September 2, 2011

Simply stated, there is no concert like a Toby Keith concert.  At one point of my life, country music was not my preferred genre of music.  That was, until I heard a few Toby songs.  Soon after I bought tickets to my first concert of his.  Since then I have seen him a total of 23 times.  September 2, 2011 was the 23rd time and it was as good as it once was. 

Through his fan club, I was able to win a meet and greet with the rising star, Eric Church.  I got into the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ when doors opened and proceeded to the backstage area.  My sister and I have noticed that Eric is not big on smiling so when it was my turn to meet him, I told him that I had a bet going with her that he would not smile in the picture with me.  As you can see, I won that bet.  Eric was humble and gracious and we spoke for a minute or so and I was off to my seat. 

We had 15th row center floor seats, which had a perfect view of the stage.  Eric came out on stage when the sun was just going down – and he was off and running.  Eric Church’s live performances are full of energy – but a different type of energy.  He is not the Kenny Chesney type who runs around the stage and is not like Tim McGraw who slowly walks around the stage with a swagger.  Instead, he stands at the microphone, signing with incredible passion, and constantly pounds his chest, yells at the crowd, pours beers on himself.  He truly has an unique and effective way of getting the crowd ridiculously pumped. 

His set was a great mixture of his three albums.  It was highlighted by the songs of his new album, Cheif.  Songs such as “Drink In My Hand” and “Homeboy” had the crowd signing and dancing along.  The tune, “Springsteen” was perfect for the New Jersey crowd who returned the favor with chants of what you would hear at an actual Springsteen show: “Bruuuuuuuuce”. 

Eric also sang a great cover of the Hank Williams Jr. classic “Country Boy Can Survive”.  The true country fans in the audience sang along word for word, pumping their chests along with Eric.  He showed off his banjo skills on the new song “Creepin'”, dabbled in songs that made the ladies happy (“Love Your Love the Most”, “Hell On the Heart”) and ended his set at an energetic high with smoke blasts from behind the stage to one of Eric’s biggest hits, “Smoke a Little Smoke”. 

All in all, out of the 23 times I have seen a Toby Keith tour, I think Eric Church has been the best opening act (and that includes the likes of Trace Adkins, Miranda Lambert, Rodney Atkins, Montgomery Gentry, and Joe Nicols, to name a few).  He fits in with Toby’s style of music and really gets the energy level high and ready for the Big Dog Daddy to hit the stage. 

Toby’s set began as it always does, with a short five minute Ford F-150 commercial.  Usually they are pretty humorous, but this year’s was over the top cheesy.  This was probably the only part of Toby’s set that I did not enjoy, luckily it was only a few minutes long and the Big Dog hit the stage.  He came out to “Bullets In Gun” and never looked back.

The crowd was treated to Toby’s newest single, “Made In America” which has already hit the top 10 on the Mediabase and Billboard charts after only being out on country radio for a few weeks.  I have absolutely loved this song since he debuted it at the CMT Awards a few months ago.  With all the bravado and swagger that one would expect from Toby Keith, he executed this hit to perfection complete with fire blasts, salutes to the crowd, and his voice hitting the high notes flawlessly. 

One thing every fan who comes to a Toby Keith concert knows is you are going to hear the hits.  Toby prides himself on singing the songs people know and love.  And he has plenty to choose from – “I Love This Bar”, “As Good As I Once Was”, “How Do You Like Me Now” and “Wanna Talk About Me” were all incorporated into the set.  However, Toby sang a song that I have never heard him do live before and it absolutely blew me away: “Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You”.  His voice thundered through the warm Jersey night to this love song as his deep voice masterfully executed notes both high and low.  He had to impress everyone that night as I was left with goosebumps when he finished the song. 

For anyone who has not been to a Toby Keith show, the show is a big mixture of party songs, Patriotic Anthems, and good old country songs.  There is not letdown and Toby incorporates his great sense of humor into the videos on the big screen as well as a plethora of pyrotechnics that would make Kiss want to go country. 

He really shines when he addresses the crowd to salute to all the people who put their lives on the line for us before “Beer For My Horses”.  He even gets the crowds laughing during humorous tunes such as “Weed With Willie” and “Get Out of My Car”.  Both songs have lyrics dealing with sex and drugs, which mostly every other country singer stays away from in their song content.  But, as Toby sees it – its all in good fun so just “sing along if you don’t think you are too cool”. 

Toby’s band was really showcased on this night as he let the trumpet and horn section take the front of the stage on numerous songs, such as “God Love Her” and “Who’s Your Daddy”.  He even let his backup singer, Mica Roberts, belt out a cover of “Lady Marmalade” which suprisingly fit in well in the middle of the bombastic set. 

Of course, the highlight of a Toby Keith show, for any true fan of his, is the encore.  In my opinion, I think Toby has the best encore in music today, no matter what genre.  After a few minutes of the lights being out and the sold out amplitheatre shouting out deafening chants of “USA, USA…” and “Toby, Toby …” he comes out to sing the emotional ode to our military, “American Soldier”.  On this night, he changed the words up a bit and sang the song with the words “American Warrior”.  He then gets an American Flag Guitar and dominates the stage to his most infamous song “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue”. 

If you are a fan of Toby, like I am, you absolutely love this song.  If you do not like him for whatever reason, you probably despise it.  But on that night, the 18,000 people in New Jersey all collectively pumped their fist in the air when Toby dropped the line “put a boot in your ass its the American way”.  He brought out the friends and family of a fallen Navy Seal for the encore which really pumped even more patriotism into the amplitheatre.  Complete with more pyro M-80 blasts and a rain of red, white, and blue confetti, the crowd was treated to a show unlike any other. 

I thought both Eric Church and Toby Keith brought their A games on this night and, as always, made it one of the best tours of the year.  I cannot wait to see it all over again in two weeks in Hartford, Connecticut.  Stay tuned …..

Setlist:

TOBY KEITH SETLIST
1) Bullets In The Gun
2) Just Talkin Bout Tonight
3) Made In America
4) American Ride
5) Whiskey Girl
6) Wanna Talk About Me
7) God Love Her
8) Get Drunk And Be Somebody
9) Blue Moon
10) Somewhere Else
11) Who’s Your Daddy
12) Good As I Once Was
13) I Love This Bar
14) Should Of Been Cowboy
15) Weed With Willie
16) Get Outta My Car
17) Beer For My Horses
18) How Do You Like Me Now
19) Little Less Talk
*encore*
20) American Soldier (Remix: American Warrior)
21) Courtesy of the Red White and Blue

ERIC CHURCH SETLIST:

1) Before She Does
2) How Bout You
3) Hell On The Heart
4) Sinners Like Me
5) Drink In My Hand
6) Guys Like Me
7) Springsteen
8) Getting Stoned
9) Love Your Love The Most
10) Lotta Boot
11) Creepin
12) Keep On
13) Country Boy Can Survie (Hank Williams Jr. Cover)
14) Homeboy
14) Smoke A Little Smoke

Video Clips:
ERIC CHURCH: “Springsteen”

ERIC CHURCH: “Creepin”

TOBY KEITH: “Made In America”

 

TOBY KEITH: “I Love This Bar”

TOBY KEITH: “Beer For My Horses”

Collaboration Songs Are in the Works: Toby Keith & Eric Church – Plus, Red Solo Cup

I just caught word that Toby Keith has been busy writing songs on his current “Locked & Loaded” Tour.  While this is nothing new for the songwriter, what is newsworthy is that his opening act, Eric Church, has been sitting in on these occasional writing sessions. 

“We wrote a couple songs together, and they’re great songs,” Eric enthusiastically tells CountryWeekly.com. “We’ve been threatening to do it for a while and it’s a neat thing to just pop up on his bus and write. It’s been fun to get to know him a bit.”

Both artists have the reputation of doing things “their own way”.  This does not always mean doing it the way country radio or Nashville would like them to.  From putting a “boot in their ass” to “smoke a little smoke” both artists have a passion and a dedication to writing, performing, and not caring what the critics say.  Recently, Eric Church, who just released his third album entitled “Cheif”, experienced life at the top of the Billboard All-Genre Albums Chart, something Toby has achieved countless times. 

Eric has also mentioned that he and Toby have plans to write even more songs and that one of the two plan on releasing the songs on an upcoming album.  “I’d love to,” Eric said, “[o]r Toby will.”

Further, I have caught wind that Toby Keith will be releasing a new song to country radio soon, entitled “Red Solo Cup”.  Apparently, the comedian, Carrot Top , tweeted that he was contacted by Toby about being in the video.  I have also heard that the video was shot this past week in Nashville. 

Carrot Top reported via Twitter that Toby Keith played him this new song and stated “He (Toby Keith) said it might be ‘the most absurd song I’ve recorded,’ ”.  Besides Carrot Top, Toby has invited big names, including former President George W. Bush and actor Jack Nicholson, to be in the video.

This news comes on the eve of my attendance of a Locked & Loaded Tour stop.  I will be reporting back on tomorrow night’s show. 

Kid Rock at the Comcast Theatre, Hartford, Connecticut (7/7/11)

I attended Kid Rock’s Born Free Tour this past Thursday (7/7/11) at the Comcast Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut.  I am not ashamed to admit that I am a fan of Kid Rock.  I have always been amazed how he has been able to stay relevant in the country, hip-hop, and rock communities throughout his career.  He is respected by the likes of legends like Rev Run of Run DMC, Hank Williams Jr., Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Willie Nelson.  Since I am a fan of all genres of music, going to a Kid Rock show is what I would call a mish-mash celebration of music. 

In typical Kid Rock fashion, he amplified his performance in Hartford with pyrotechnics, background dancers, lights, large screens, American Flags, a gold bald eagle, and at times, fire blasts that would make Super Mario proud. 

Highlights of the show were his hilarious folk-country songs: “Lowlife” and “Forty”.  Both are songs in which Kid Rock does something different than most of his other songs, he makes fun of himself.  His multi-platinum hits like “Cowboy”, “Cocky”, “Never Met A * Like Me”, and “American Bad A$$” all shout lyrics of ultra confidence personified, so it works very well when he switches it up and pokes fun at himself. 

Another highlight was when Kid Rock performed an instrumental jam session by himself! He played everything from the electric guitar, to drums, the bass, and even scratched on the dj turntables. It truly showcased how the man who is “straight from the trailor” is actually mutli-talented. 

At one point he brought out Sheryl Crow (who was also the opening act).  They combined voices for a cover of the song “Love The One You’re With” and they sat down in two stools and sang their classic hit “Picture”.  However, for some unexplainable reason, Sheryl left the stage and they did not sing their brand new single “Collide”.  I was looking forward to hearing them sing the new single especially since they sang it together a few weeks ago at the CMT Awards and it is the current single released to radio.  Once she was announced as the opening support for the Born Free tour, I thought it was a slam dunk that they would perform “Picture” and “Collide” together.  Why they chose to avoid “Collide” and do a cover of an older song was quite confusing and very dissapointing. 

Of course, the set ended with Kid Rock’s most famous song “Bawitdaba”.  He performed the legendary song with no shirt and an array of pyrotechnics that would make Kiss proud.  The lights went black for a few minutes and he came back out to three of Kid Rock’s best and most unique songs:  “All Summer Long” fit the 90 degree July day perfectly as he used every inch of the stage and had the entire amplitheatre singing along.  Kid then showcased more of his music skills as he sat down to a piano and sang the emotional “Only God Knows Why” song.  He closed with a Patriotic Anthem that would make Toby Keith, Lee Greenwood, and James Brown fist pump “Jersey Shore” style. “Born Free” had the entire crowd rocking and bleeding patriotism.  Equipped with American Flags and more pyrotechnics, Kid Rock finished off another energetic evening that truly took music fans through a music celebration of all genres. 

Setlist:
1.      American Bad A$$
2.      God Bless Saturday
3.      You Never Met A * Quite Like Me
4.      Lowlife
5.      Keep Your Hands to Yourself
6.      Cocky
7.      Slow My Roll
8.      Midnight Rider
9.      Cowboy
10.  Care
11.  Somebody’s Gotta Feel This
12.  Fist Of Rage
13.  I Am the Bulldog
14.  Sugar
15.  Flyin’ High
16.  Forty
17.  Love The One You’re With (with Sheryl Crow)
18.  Picture (with Sheryl Crow)
19.  Instrumental Jam Session
20.  So Hott
21.  Bawitdaba

Encore:
22.  All Summer Long
23.  Only God Knows Why (on piano)
24.  Born Free

The night I was part of the Dierks Bentley Concert (March 2011, Toyota Presents the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Connecticut)

as featured in the following articles:

http://www.countrymusicislove.com/2011/03/fan-story-ryan-amy-dierks-bentley.html

http://dbcongress.blogspot.com/2011/03/married-couple-to-be-come-lot-closer-to.html

Here is an account of a show I went to in March of 2011.  It was the opening night of the Jagermiester Country Tour.  The headliner was Dierks Bentley.  It was probably the most memorable concert experience I have had yet:

I arrived to the venue (Toyota Presents the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford, Connecticut) to get my tickets from Will Call and found out I had Row A, Center. On top of that we had a meet and greet with Josh Thompson, one of the 3 opening acts. We spoke to Josh for awhile and he seemed very humble and we were impressed by his live show. He has a great future ahead of him.

When it was time for the headliner to hit the stage, the crowd was full of energy. Not only was it the Jagermiester Country Tour, but it was also St. Patrick’s Day and the crowd was fired up. Dierks came out in a cloud of smoke and cranked out hit after hit, starting with “Feel That Fire” and “Free & Easy”. He played some new songs that were fantastic as well, highlighted by a new party song called “Am I The Only One”. One of the highlights of the show was when he and his band took the crowd through an acoustic set of songs that have influenced them as artists (including Alabama’s “Dixieland Delight”, Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried”, and U2′s “Pride”, among others).


After the acoustic set, Dierks asked the crowd “is anyone out here getting married?” Since my wife and I were sitting in the first row and we were not getting married until the following month at the time, she raised her hand and Dierks spotted us. He handed me his microphone stand and invited us up to the stage. He proceeded to ask me what date we were getting married on, looked on her ring, made a bunch of jokes with us and sang a new song to us called “Diamonds Make Babies”. It was a hilarious song which warns men about proposing to their girlfriends because if you give her a diamond, expect the kids to follow and your life to completely change. The song was hysterical, he even let me sing part of the chorus. It was an abosolutely amazing moment.

The last song of his set (before the encore) was “Come A Little Closer” and he approached me again. At this point, Dierks said into the microphone “I’m taking your girl up here, okay?” I said sure and he pulled her up on stage. At this point he started singing the song to her and making hilarious comments about me and her. He then gave her the microphone to hold to the crowd and the entire arena started singing the song back to her. He went from side to side of the stage doing this with her until he suddenly ran away leaving her on stage by herself holding the microphone to the crowd. She didn’t realize for a few seconds and when she turned around to give him the microphone back, she freaked out! She ran right over to me and gave me the microphone and I sang the chorus back to her. The crowd went crazy and everyone was laughing and cheering. He then came back out to save her and signaled for me to follow them on stage – I jumped up and followed them backstage and the three of us took a picture together.

Dierks not only gave us an unforgettable night, but backstage he actually thanked us! He said “thank you guys for making that so much fun for me”. I responded by saying “No way – Thank you. That was an amazing experience”. He then went back out for the encore and finished off with “Sideways” and “What Was I Thinking”.

For anyone who has not seen a Dierks Bentley show, I highly recommend it. The concert was high energy, with a wide range of his greatest hits, new songs, and covers of classic songs from multiple genres. I cannot thank Dierks enough for the experience he gave us.   It was once in a lifetime and we are grateful for how amazing he is to his fans.