Zac Brown Band’s Bucket List Moment at Madison Square Garden

Zac Brown Band
Madison Square Garden
November 17, 2012
w/ Blackberry Smoke & Levi Lowrey
 

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.

SETLIST:

  1. Keep Me In Mind
  2. As She’s Walking Away
  3. Uncaged
  4. The Wind
  5. Colder Weather
  6. Natural Disaster
  7. Toes
  8. Goodbye In Her Eyes
  9. Who Knows
  10. The Problem with Freedom (w/ Levi Lowrey)
  11. All  Apologies (Nirvana Cover)
  12. One Day
  13. Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith  Cover)
  14. Fiddle Intro into Free
  15. Free
  16. Into the Mystic (Van Morrison Cover)
  17. Whiskey’s Gone
  18. Can’t You See (Marshall Tucker Band Cover with Blackberry Smoke)
  19. Knee Deep
  20. Highway 20 Ride
  21. Devil Went Down To Georgia (Charlie Daniels Band Cover)
  22. Percussion/Drum Solo (with Massif)
  23. Jump Right In (Encore)
  24. Enter the Sandman (Encore – Metallica Cover)
  25. America The Beautiful (Encore)
  26. Chicken Fried (Encore)

The Full Zac Brown Band Experience at Mohegan Sun

Zac Brown Band
September 1, 2012
Mohegan Sun Arena
Uncasville, Connecticut

On Saturday, September 1, 2012, I had the privilege of having the full Zac Brown Band experience: access to the Eat & Greet, a Pit Pass, and an up close and personal look into the most talented group of musicians country music has to offer.  It started off with an orange wristband and a brief wait in the lobby the Mohegan Sun Arena.  I’ve had several meet and greets with other artists in numerous different rooms within the Arena, but this Eat & Greet experience was deep into the halls of the Arena.  We walked into a large room where several of the Band’s trucks were and saw several tables set in the form of an inside picnic. 

Each of the Band members was at the entrance ready to greet each of the lucky fans with wristband.  After shaking hands with each of them, I spotted Chef Rusty Hamlin, the Band’s head road Chef.  I had tweeted him earlier in the day and he was happy (and extremely excited) to show me each of the dishes he had prepared for us.  He explained he got all of the ingredients at a local farm, Holmberg Orchards.  He then told us to head to the bar because there was an open bar with Jack Daniels and Landshark. 

Zac Brown then gave a short speech and handed the microphone to Chef Rusty who spoke about the various food options, which included ratatouille, sweet potatoes with pecans, coleslaw, beef, pork, cornbread fritters, and more.  It was truly incredible food with an insane amount of flavors and freshness.  On top of that, each of the members moved about the tables and spent time speaking with the fans.  The access to the band, the open bar, and the amazing food made the Eat & Greet a truly remarkable experience.

I spoke to Zac about the type of guitar strings he likes to play with.  I had noticed he uses nylon strings and wanted to know why.  He spent a good deal of time really explaining it to me.  He said he grew up playing classical music and learned on those strings.  And for the style he plays, with such intensity, it is easier on his finger tips.  I also asked Clay Cook if he was going to be singing any songs that night and he said that the Band does not make up the setlist until right before they go on stage because they “want to play songs they feel like playing on that particular night”.  That explains why their setlists are completely different each night (much unlike most of the country music world who basically play the same songs each night).

I then made my way down to the Pit area as the opening act, Levi Lowery, was finishing his set.  A giant white sheet/screen covered the stage as a countdown was on to the main event.  The sheet flew up and the band wasted no time as the opening guitar intro to the title cut of their new album “Uncaged” was up first.  The stage was an enormous set, with moving cranes and lights, three huge projection screens, and the band members stationed as a cohesive unit.  When the second song played was “Toes”, we knew that the setlist that night was going to be amazing. 

Throughout the set, it was very apparent that each member of the Band is a vital and unique part.  Of course, Zac is the leader.  But, each member is unbelievably talented in their own right.  Songs like “The Wind” and “Who Knows”, which the latter of which became a fourteen minute jam out, really showcase the diversity and skill.  Each member gets their own time in the spotlight playing their respective instruments. 

I was on the left side of center, right alongside the fiddler, Jimmy De Martini, who I have often referred to as the most talented musician in country music.  If anyone wants to argue with me, bring it.  He absolutely blew my mind as well as everyone standing around me.  When he would rip into a fiddle solo, whether it was on “Devil Went Down To Georgia”, “Free” or “Sic Em On A Chicken”, mouths dropped.  He is worth the price of admission in of itself. 

The Band did a three song acoustic set, where they sat down on crates and boxes in the front of catwalk and were joined by Levi Lowrey.  I was not a huge fan of this portion as I’d rather see the Band going all out in their natural element.  But there was also something very genuine about the set.  They gave a bit of insight into what it must be like when they are creating their songs.  Still, the excitement level of the crowd seemed to die down.  But when the opening fiddle notes of “Free” started when the Band returned to the stage, there was no downtime for the rest of the night. 

The Encore began with a ten minute jam out between the Fryar and De Los Reyes.  The bongos and drums were smashed with such intensity that I could feel the vibrations from the floor up into my body.  And with true class and patriotism, the Band finished the night off with “America, The Beatiful” as a pre-lude to their signature song, “Chicken Fried”.  While most of the night was a sing-a-long, the crowd was never louder during the final megahit. 

Zac thanked the crowd and each of the members took a bow.  They exited the stage and never have I ever been so full of satisfaction from a concert experience.  Between the backstage experience and the exhilirating performance, I saw a state of class, intimacy, talent, and perfection, that not many other music acts can match, nor care to put forth.  Zac’s attention to details and his care for his fans help Zac Brown Band stand apart at the forefront of musical entertainment. 

SETLIST:

  1. Uncaged
  2. Toes
  3. Not Okay
  4. As She’s Walking Away
  5. No Hurry
  6. The Wind
  7. Can’t You See (Marshall Tucker Band Cover)
  8. Colder Weather
  9. Jump Right In
  10. Keep Me In Mind
  11. Wherever We Break Down (Acoustic Song with Levi Lowrey)
  12. One Day (Acoustic Song)
  13. Sweet Emotion (Acoustic Song – Aerosmith Cover)
  14. Free
  15. Into the Mystic (Van Morrison Cover)
  16. Who Knows
  17. Knee Deep
  18. Sic Em On A Chicken
  19. Sweet Annie
  20. Devil Went Down To Georgia (Charlie Daniels Band Cover)
  21. Drum Solo’s by Chris Fryar & Daniel De Los Reyes (ENCORE)
  22. Whiskey’s Gone (ENCORE)
  23. America The Beautiful (ENCORE)
  24. Chicken Fried (ENCORE)

VIDEOS:

Jump Right In
 
 
 
 
Devil Went Down To Georgia