Zac Brown Band – Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts – August 7, 2015
Zac Brown Band
September 1, 2013
Just in case anyone doubted the live prowess of the Zac Brown Band, they surely set the record straight on Labor Day Weekend in Hartford, Connecticut. It was a hot, humid and sticky day in New England, but that did not stop people of all ages to fill the Comcast Theater pit, seats, and lawn to the very last spot. The parking lot was extra rowdy as tailgaters got themselves ready, for what I consider, the best Band in the land.
Zac and his crew of musical geniuses took to the stage at approximately 8:45 and performed one of the most action packed shows I have ever witnessed. The summer anthem “Jump Right In” got everyone dancing and singing off the bat and ZBB never looked back. Armed with a laser light show and stunning visuals on the big screen behind them, every portion of the performance was masterfully executed.
But as much as the visuals were impressive, the real star of the show was music. And for anyone who regrettably has not seen Zac Brown Band live yet, they are not your typical country act. In fact, they are far from it. What other artist or band out there, who churns out #1 after #1 on country radio, can play just some of their “hits” and the fans are left satisfied? What other Band can play Metallica, Nirvana, David Gray, Van Morrison and James Taylor covers with such authenticity? The answer is there is only one.
And as it such with every ZBB show, Zac is the obvious ring-leader, but makes it known that every member of the Band is equally as important. From Clay Cook and Coy Bowles’ rousing electric guitar solo’s on “Who Knows” to Jimmy De Martini’s face melting fiddle solo’s on songs like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” to John Driskell Hopskins’ surprising rendition of “Enter Sandman” to Chris Fryar and Daniel De Los Reyes perfection on the percussionist instruments, each member shows how truly superior ZBB is from anyone else in the game today.
Of course, no show would be complete without ZBB’s signature song, “Chicken Fried”, which produced an eruption of vocal chords all singing in unison from the stage to the very back of the lawn. Zac was extremely demonstrative with his stern and focused look as he picked and strummed his guitar with intensity.
What really surprised me and much of the crowd was when the band came out for their encore dressed in glow in the dark skeleton outfits that brought an air of mystery and darkness. And the song selections fit right with costume stage as they rocked out to “Uncaged”, Led Zeppelin’s “Kasmir” and a stirring rendition of The Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”. I may get knocked for it, but I think ZBB’s version of the song one ups the original as Jimmy De Martini absolutely destroys any other fiddler I’ve ever seen.
All in all, the Zac Brown Band is the best in the business for my money. The overall excitement and true appreciation for all genres of music makes them truly unique. In an age where music acts play the same songs and same setlist night after night, no Zac Brown Band show is like one before. Simply put, ZBB is the best band in land.
- Jump Right In
- The Wind
- As She’s Walking Away
- Whiskey’s Gone
- Who Knows
- Day For the Dead
- Sweet Annie
- Colder Weather
- Into the Mystic (Van Morrison Cover)
- Seven Bridges Road
- Babylon (David Gray Cover)
- Me & Julio (with Brad Stella)
- Love the One You’re With/Iko Iko (with Brad Stella)
- All Apologies (Nirvana Cover)
- The Frozen Man (James Taylor Cover)
- Percussion Solo’s
- Keep Me In Mind
- Settle Me Down
- Highway 20 Ride
- Knee Deep
- Sic ’em on a Chicken
- Goodbye in Her Eyes
- Enter Sandman (Metallica Cover)
- Chicken Fried
- Kashmir (Led Zeppelin Cover)
- The Devil Went Down to Georgia (The Charlie Daniels Band Cover)
You can see my review for “Daylight” at: http://millertimemusicspot.blogspot.com/2013/02/john-driskell-hopkins-and-balsam-range.html as well as my review for Zac Brown Band’s Grammy Award winnning “Uncaged” at: http://millertimemusicspot.blogspot.com/2013/02/john-driskell-hopkins-and-balsam-range.html.
Below is my conversation with Hopkins:
Track by Track Dissection
John Driskell Hopkins and Balsam Range – “Daylight”
John Driskell Hopkins, founding member of the Grammy Award Winning Zac Brown Band, got together with Bluegrass specialists, Balsam Range to create “Daylight”. It is mainly a bluegrass album which incorporates shades of country, folk, rock, and roots music. Balsam Range, an award winning band in their own right, consists of Caleb Smith, Marc Pruett, Buddy Melton, Tim Surrett, and Darren Nicholson.
I found the album to be a beautiful listening experience with unique blends of harmony and a display of true skillmanship, intrumentally. What follows is a track by track review of what I heard and felt when listening to each of the songs. I was also able to speak with John over the phone about this project and our conversation is listed after the review. I urge all with able ears to get a copy of Daylight. The exceptional vocal abilities of John really shine as his deep, profound voice pump passion to each and every track.
1. Runaway Train (Featuring Jerry Douglas)
The album starts out with John’s voice mimicking a train and some simple guitar picking. What follows is bombastic first song which takes listeners inside the mind of man who seems to be completely out of control in his life. “Runaway Train” is a rollicking ride of emotions sung with passion and, at times, controlled anger. Musically, the guitars use a bit of slap throughout which add to the dramatic tone of the song.
2. I Will Lay Me Down (Featuring Zac Brown)
This, as a big Zac Brown Band fan, was a true highlight. The melody of the track is absolutely beautiful with all instruments connecting, tied together with a skilled rift. John sings of not having a problem passing away happy, as long as he has lived a complete life. Zac Brown adds his star vocals, harmonizing with John, as well as a solo verse. The storyline, the instruments, and the harmonizes produce a masterfully executed track. It was also refreshing to see two members of the Grammy Award Winning Zac Brown Band step outside of their normal country music setting and take on a true Bluegrass song.
3. Daylight (Featuring Tony Trischka)
The title track takes on a more country vibe as it has a charming feel to a simple love song. John sings about a man who knows he must find a way to see through all of life’s problems to see how to truly find love. The guitar work on the song really shines with several competing rifts and melodies meshed together to produce a beautiful tune.
The banjo is the star of this song as my ear constantly heard the instrument stand out above all others. The song seems to be about a man who is very relieved that his woman has broken up with him. What starts off somewhat solemn becomes a happy tune of a thankful man. While the banjo is prominent, you can hear the immense skill of Balsam Range as all instruments again combine to a comforting combination.
5. Bye Baby Goodbye (Featuring Joey + Rory)
John’s vocals are never better on the album as he is able to show how he can impressively hit both low and high octaves. Country duo, Joey + Rory, add their skills to the song as a guest feature. Joey and John trade bars within the song and, at times, harmonize together, singing words of a mutual break-up. The song is more about the vocals than the instruments, which is rare on the “Daylight” album, yet effective nonetheless.
6. She Don’t Love Me Today
A light-hearted and humorous tune which has a fast tempo throughout. The song’s basic message is how a man and woman can love each other unconditionally, but, at times, can be at each other’s throats. John sings of how much he loves his woman, but how has done something stupid and is paying for it at home. The banjo, played by Marc Pruett, is again very prominent throughout this witty song.
7. Be My Girl
A slow, soulful song which is more country than Bluegrass. John’s delivery really makes the track work, specifically how he holds the last note of “girl” in the chorus. It’s a beautiful set up where a man is describing what he has envisioned if she would agree to be with him. The Band uses complex and extremely skilled sheet-music throughout this entire album, yet they keep it relatively simple on this track, and it worked perfectly.
8. The Devil Lives in a Mason Jar
This is another track where John and the boys get to flex their muscles and sing with ripe passion. As the song plays it builds with a sense of anger and mystery. The message of the song of how, when this man drinks alcohol, he becomes a different, more devilish person. John has a unique way of sounding possessed when he wants to and this song showcases that.
9. How Could I? (Featuring Levi Lowrey)
This song takes more of a folk song than any other. Levi Lowrey is a song-writer who seems to create songs with a dark and poignsnt feel to them. The man in the song is disgusted with himself for taking certain things for granted. The harmonization of Levi with John was simple, yet effective.
10. It’s Not Ok
This is a remake of the song off of the Triple Platinum Zac Brown Band album “The Foundation”. Daylight’s version is much more bluegrassy and a fresh take on a fan favorite song. I have seen John take lead vocals on this tune various times at a ZBB show. I found it entertaining that Balsam Range took it upon themselves to pay homage to the original while putting their own stamp on it. Pruett’s banjo is the biggest difference between the original and this version.
11. The Grass Don’t Get No Greener
This track had me on my toes at all times. It starts off with an almost show-tune type of feel, but John comes in with some thunderous vocals, followed with various other members of Balsam Range singing for the first time all album. The tempo is unbelievably fast at some points, and slow and controlled at others. Quite the musical kitchen sink.
This is a song I can play over and over again. The voice freestyling displayed by John is so unique in today’s music. The voice modulations mirrored the instruments as the band frolics through the song with mastery. I dare you to listen to this song and not have phrase “diggity-da-boom” running through your head the rest of the day.
13. Shady Bald Breakdown
An instrumental track (besides some freestyling by John towards the end) which shows how immensly talented Caleb Smith, Marc Pruett, Buddy Melton, Tim Surrett, Darren Nicholson, and John Driskell Hopkins are. Fast paced, intense, and exquisite are all terms that came to my mind while listening to this song. It is a perfect ending to superb album, as no words are needed to depict the mastery behind this collaborative project.
Zac Brown Band
September 1, 2012
Mohegan Sun Arena
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.
- Not Okay
- As She’s Walking Away
- No Hurry
- The Wind
- Can’t You See (Marshall Tucker Band Cover)
- Colder Weather
- Jump Right In
- Keep Me In Mind
- Wherever We Break Down (Acoustic Song with Levi Lowrey)
- One Day (Acoustic Song)
- Sweet Emotion (Acoustic Song – Aerosmith Cover)
- Into the Mystic (Van Morrison Cover)
- Who Knows
- Knee Deep
- Sic Em On A Chicken
- Sweet Annie
- Devil Went Down To Georgia (Charlie Daniels Band Cover)
- Drum Solo’s by Chris Fryar & Daniel De Los Reyes (ENCORE)
- Whiskey’s Gone (ENCORE)
- America The Beautiful (ENCORE)
- Chicken Fried (ENCORE)
Zac Brown Band – Uncaged
Track by Track Dissection
I do not want to describe this post as a review. I have too much respect for the Zac Brown Band to “review” their music. This blog post is more of a dissection of each of the tracks by a fan who already had great admiration for the talents of each of the Band members. I must say I had high expectations for this album before I even listened to it – and it surpassed those expectations and more. Here are my thoughts about each of the tracks as I listened to the album:
1. Jump Right In
The name speaks for itself on the first track of Zac Brown Band’s third album, “Uncaged” as the band jumps right into the hit making music that they have become famous for. “Jump Right In” starts off with a short yet effective intro highlighted by the infamous Zac Brown guitar picking along with a few whistles and bongos, courtesy of new member Daniel de los Reyes. But after about ten or so seconds, the whole Band gets involved to create a musical explosion. The song has the inner linings of the country music jam band that the ZBB are, but with a commercial appeal that could easily make the song yet another #1 on the Country Music Charts. The song has lyrics that will stick in your head all day long: “…you can jump right in, let music pull in you in, you can jump right in…it’s the Southern Wind, sings again, an idle lullaby“.
Uncaged lets the Band showcase their southern rock side as the song includes a multitude of guitar licks, drum bashing, and all out jam outs alongside the powerful Zac Brown voice. I can easily see this song becoming one of those songs that the Band goes nuts on for about ten minutes in their live shows as the song is more about the musical instruments than the lyrics. The euphoria of the seven ridiculously talented members showcase why the Band is truly on a different level than any Band in any genre in today’s music.
3. Goodbye In Her Eyes
This song may go on to become the most successful song, commercially, off of this album. It is an epic story of a man who knows the woman who he loves so much is leaving him and he cannot do anything about it. The song unfolds with the lyrics painting a vivid picture that could almost be the summation to a sad romantic movie. Zac is never better as he hits low and high octaves with ease and the Band gets to sing background vocals as a unit, more so than any song I’ve heard from them before. Furthermore, it is the first song on this album that fans get to hear the immense talent of Jimmy De Martini on the fiddle. Overall, this song is sad, beautiful, and powerful all at once.
4. The Wind
The first single released to country music is ZBB’s ode to bluegrass music. The picking and strumming of the guitars as well as the rapid fire fiddle and quick moving vocals create a song that I challenge anyone to not want to at least tap their foot to, if not get up and dance to. After just a few short weeks it is already in the top 20 on the country charts and moving quickly up from there. The Band just released a unique, animated music video to the song which can be seen here:
5. Island Song
For me, this was the absolute stand-out song on the album. It is a reggae song more than it is a country song. But for all intensive purposes, Zac may have created a new genre of music with his reggae-country masterpiece. The lyrics immediately take you to a place “down in the islands, down in the islands”. Zac’s reggae delivery is that of perfection. I had heard him sing in this style before at a few of his past shows, but he really nails it in this song. I found myself daydreaming as he sings about drinking rum at a tiki bar down in the islands. ZBB has always had a beach themed song on each of their albums, whether it be “Toes”, “Knee Deep” or “Where the Boat Leaves From”, but this track takes that theme to a whole new level.
6. Sweet Annie
Musically, this song reminds me a lot of “Colder Weather” as it gradually builds from a soft melody to a power ballad. The lyrics depict a man who has seemingly let everyone down in his life and he is pleading with a woman Annie to not give up on him and to give him another chance. He starts out defeated, but by the last verse he seems to gain more confidence in himself and makes his plea to let him stay with her. It is another sad yet beautiful ballad that portrays the pain that love can have on a man.
7. Natural Disaster
Another very unique song which starts out with a forty second acapella intro singing about a preacher’s daughter when all of the sudden the pace of the song picks up tremendously. It becomes a rolling country song that has beautiful lyrics about a woman who the man knows may bad for him, but cannot stop himself from loving her. The vocals pick up in pace as the song goes and creates a very effective song in which both the lyrics and the melody are equally phenomenal: “She’s like rain when she rolls in, but there’s sunshine in her thunder, it makes the loneliest heart wonder if the ride is worth the pain”.
8. Overnight (Featuring Trombone Shorty)
Simply put, I was not expecting this song when it came on. It is, in no way, a country song. It is a flat out R&B song. That being said, Zac showcases the unbelievable depth of his talent. His delivery alongside the blues guitar, trumpet and trombone and that are featured in the song make this song, by far and away, the most unique that I have heard from ZBB. It is smooth, sexy and totally out of the box. Zac is definitely not afraid to do things his own way and he does not disappoint with his track.
9. Lance’s Song
I need to learn the real meaning behind this song, but it is clearly dedicated to a musician who has passed away. The lyrics tell a story about a man who obviously lived his life engulfed in music, but apparently was not given the credit and respect he deserved until he passed away. Zac sings, with love and pain in his voice: “But they don’t know what they got, until its gone, like it or not. You live on life, you try to do what’s right, we’re all here a-waiting for our silver invitation to the big band in the sky”. It is a beautiful dedication to someone the ZBB obviously admired.
10. Day That I Die (featuring Amos Lee)
This, for me, was yet another stand-out on the album. When I first heard this song, I thought to myself that Zac Brown has probably never been more truthful in his songwriting than in this song. When he states that “I believe that I was born with a song inside of me” and “when I live out my days and to the very end, I hope find they find me in my home with my guitar in my hands” I know he is being competely honest. While I always give full credit to ZBB as a Band and completely respect each Band Member’s outstanding talents, this song is all about Zac and his dedication to music. Amos Lee is feautured on the track and his verse echoes what Zac is saying. Throughout this masterpiece you can hear the honesty that both artists are singing about. It’s very hard to think about your life, your legacy, and how you spend the last moments of your life. Zac has figured it out. I found myself getting goosebumps while listening to his sincerity.
11. Last But Not Least
A simple song about a man letting his woman know that he loves her and that she is important to him. Charismatic Clay Cook adds his vocals to the middle verse as he and Zac make it known to the woman they are with that they may have been their last love, but that it is the one that means the most because they will end up wit her. The song also works well as it was undoubtedly strategically placed as the last song of the album.
Top Picks: Island Song, Day That I Die, Goodbye In Her Eyes, Jump Right In
Zac Brown Band
w/ Nic Cowan, Sonia Leigh,
Sarah Dugas, and Arnold McCuller
December 30, 2011
I attended the Zac Brown Band concert in Nashville, TN this past week. It was my first time and first night in Nashville and everyone seemed to be just as excited as I was. Honky Tonk Row aka Broadway was jumping with people for hours before the show and you could feel the energy oozing up and down the block. Bridgestone Arena is a massive building, as far as Arenas are concerned, and the inside appeared to be very clean and well thought out. I made my way down to the floor level where the show had a General Admission Pit.
I walked into sounds of the initial opening act, Sarah Dugas and was a bit confused about what I heard. She at first was not singing in English, then proceeded to belt out sounds, not words, in a high octave that made myself and others around me cringe. I was happy only to hear a few songs by her and will certainly pass on her in the future. To my surprise, Mac McAnally, the Grammy and CMA Award Winner, was in crowd next to me. I spoke to him for a few minutes and, at one point, he stated “well you are in for a great show, the guys are really talented”. He was humble, gracious, and allowed a few fans to take pictures with him right there on the floor.
The next two opening acts up’d the ante from the rocky start and the night finally was on its way. Nic Cowan performed his funky Country/Americana songs: “Hard-Headed”, “Woke Up This Morning”, and “Cut It Loose” and he had the crowd dancing throughout. I have really enjoyed Nic’s music and was hoping for a longer set than just four songs, but he did perform a new single that has a lot of promise. Sonia Leigh was next and she came out with high energy right away. She is a very unorthodox female singer who is way more Americana than Country, but it works for her. “Money” and “Bar” are catchy songs and she has a passion for her songs. I do not think she will ever be a regular on country radio, but her fans could care less.
It was finally time for the main event and the extravagant stage illuminated with stars, lights and lazers and the Zac Brown Band jumped into their newest #1 smash hit, “Keep Me In Mind” and never looked back. I have seen ZBB over seven times and they keep getting better and better. No setlist has ever been the same and each show has new surprises.
I was half expecting Alan Jackson to show up for “As She’s Walking Away” since we were in Nashville, but when he didn’t it did not bother me all that much. Especially since they followed up those first two #1’s with their rendition of Charlie Daniel’s “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”. Excuse me for saying this, and I may get hate mail for it, but I think Zac and the boys’ version is better than the original. Jimmy De Martini is an absolute master with the fiddle. That, and the intensity and skill the other members of the band play their instruments with make that song a must at each ZBB show.
For the first time since I have seen them live, Zac added two new band members to the stage. One was a saxophonist that resembled Justin Bieber and another was a bongo player who later on had a “drum-off” with ZBB’s Chris Fryar. Both were highly skilled and really added a new flavor to the already overly talented Zac Brown Band.
The setlist flowed perfectly with #1 hits and deeper cuts off the Band’s two albums in which all the fans in the sold out arena seemed to know word for word. There were several songs that were meshed with other classics, such as “Free” mashed with “Into the Mystic” and “Where The Boat Leaves From” and some Bob Marley classics. One highlight was when “Isn’t She Lovely” was mashed up with John Mayer’s “Neon”. If I thought Jimmy De Martini was amazing on their earlier Charlie Daniels rendition, he showcased his ridiculous talent even more on a spellbinding fiddle solo on “Neon”.
Zac brought out Sarah Dugas along with soul/R&B singer, Arnold McCullen for a cover of “Use Me”. ZBB let Arnold and Sarah handle the vocals and Zac really seemed to be enjoying himself during the funky song. This song was suprisingly followed up by a cover of hip-hop group Outkast’s “So Fresh and So Clean”. That is the real beauty of the Zac Brown Band, their range of songs are unlike anyone in the business. I have seen them cover songs from Pink Floyd, Outkast, Sir Mix A Lot, to Tom Petty, Alabama, and Rage Against the Machine.
The stage for this tour was much more extravagant than the recent tours. It had rotating and moving spotlights as well interactive screens that changed colors and showcased live images of each of the Band members.
The Encore began with the drum-off that I spoke of earlier and was followed up with a masterful version of “Can’t You See” with Band member, Clay Cook, on vocals. He too has a wonderful voice and really put his all into this song. The whole crowd responded with applause and their voices back.
The Nashville crowd exploded during the next few songs. First was “Colder Weather”, arguably the Band’s most successful single, to date. Bridgestone Arena sang along to the song word for word and Zac’s voice was never better. I heard reports that Zac was sick during the show and needed an emergency shot of antibotics before the concert. I would have never known unless for those reports because, to me, his voice was as clear and strong as ever.
Lastly was a mashup of “America. The Beautiful” with “Chicken Fried”. The two songs flow so well together and the whole crowd went crazy during the chorus of the latter. Zac and the boys ended the song with a jam-out in which each member had a short solo. Zac finished and stated to the crowd in a loud, booming and passionate voice: “I know a lot of you have seen us at Awards shows lately and we have come up empty handed. But we do not judge our success by those Awards, it is by this right here – you the fans! And as long as you guys keep coming out and filling up these Arenas for our shows, I guarantee we will be here in 20 years still doing this for you. So thank you Nashville!”. It was powerful and obviously truthful statement in which Zac really exclaimed with passion.
The show was incredible and everyone walked away completely entertained and extremely satisfied. As the Nashville crowd walked out of the Arena and right onto Honky Tonk Row, they knew that in twenty years they would indeed be seeing Zac and the boys again, because this Band is not going anywhere but the top.
1. Keep Me In Mind
2. As She’s Walking Away
3. Devil Went Down To Georgia
5. Into The Mystic
6. Where The Boat Leaves From
7. Islands In The Stream
9. Highway 20 Ride
10. Not Okay
11. Who Knows
12. Knee Deep
13. Whiskey’s Gone
14. Use Me (with Sarah Dugas and Arnold McCullen)
15. So Fresh and So Clean
16. Sic Em On A Chicken
17. Isn’t She Lovely
19. Make This Day (with Mastiff)
20. Drum Solo’s by Chris Fryar
21. Can’t You See with vocals by Clay Cook
22. Colder Weather
23. America The Beautiful
24. Chicken Fried
Kenny Chesney’s Goin’ Coastal Tour
Gillette Stadium – August 27, 2011
Zac Brown Band, Billy Currington, & Uncle Kracker
Final Night of the Tour
As most of the East Coast prepared for Hurricane Irene, 59,000 country music fans in Foxboro, Massachusetts, decided to hold off on dealing with the impending disaster. Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, hosted the final night of Kenny Chesney’s Goin’ Coastal Tour. While some of the show featured all out down-pours, the majority of the night, including all of Chesney’s set, was rain free.
After spending a few hours at the fun and impressive Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, which is located right next door to Gillette Stadium, we walked into the field level as Billy Currington was singing. Billy sang the same set as I had seen a few weeks earlier at The New Meadowlands Stadium. Billy has a ways to go with the energy and showmanship in his live performances, but his voice and songs carry him enough that he is still enjoyable. Although I do not see him headlining a tour anytime soon, he was a good warm-up for the two powerhouses which followed.
Zac Brown Band hit on all cylinders Saturday night. I have seen them live several times and this was, indeed, one of their finest. While Billy Currington and Kenny Chesney sang almost identicle sets from the previous shows, Zac Brown and his Band switched things up totally. Yes, the hits such as “Toes”, “Highway 20 Ride”, “Free”, “Colder Weather”, and “Chicken Fried were played, but they also incorporated other cuts that were not released as single, but the fans knew nonetheless. As the rain stormed down on the crowd, Zac bolted out “Jolene” with such passion and pain, that no one seemed to care about the weather.
Zac sang a new tune called “Sweet Anne” that seems to be destined for country radio supremacy. And of course, Jimmy DeMartini, who I consider to be the best non-vocal musician in all of country music, shined on his multiple fiddle solo’s. The Zac Brown Band’s cover of Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down To Georgie” is even better than the original. Jimmy’s fiddle skills are particularly on display when the band does that song live. The speed that his arm and wrist move at is absolutely remarkable.
What is very different from most bands is that although Zac Brown is clearly the leader and face of the Band, he lets his bandmates get their “shine on” as well. For example, on this night, Zac let Clay Cook take the vocals on “Can’t See You Tonight”. Clay’s vocals could be lead for any other band in the land and as the rain came down at its hardest of the night while he sang this song (originally recorded by Zac with Kid Rock), the crowd could truly appreciate how talented this whole band really is.
The Zac Brown Band closed out their set as they always do, with “America The Beautiful” mixed as an intro into the band’s first, and biggest hit, “Chicken Fried”. After ZBB finished doing their thing I thought to myself: wow, they were so good I almost forgot they were not the headliner of the show and Kenny Chesney is yet to come. In fact, at least two times during their set, Zac Brown made it known to the crowd the Band is motivated to become one of the biggest acts in country music as he boldy stated “we want to come back here and play for ya’ll as a headliner” and “we will be back”. I absolutely believe him – this Band is the real deal Holyfield.
To everyone’s delight the rain subsided before Chesney flew into the Stadium as there were only brief spells of drizzle during his set. Chesney entered the Stadium as he has continously done over the past few years, on a flying apparatus extended high by cables above the floor section. He sang the entire song “Live A Little” while flying as if he was in Cirque de Soleil.
Kenny did basically the same set as he did at the New Meadowlands Stadium. He did throw in the song “She’s From Boston” and the New England Crowd graciously appreciated the hometown love. However, Chesney was extra emotional and animated. He normally is very active on stage, but this night, being the final Tour stop, he seemed to full of smiles more than most.
Chesney, for me, really shines on two songs: “I Go Back” and “Anything But Mine”. They are the type of songs when you hear them live at his show, they are ten times better than the radio version. The crowd sings back to him in unison with such precision and he responds to a tee.
At one point, CMA Chief Executive Officer Steve Moore came out on stage and presented the inaugural CMA Touring Musician Award to Chesney’s keyboard player Wyatt Beard. Chesney said he had hired Beard ten minutes before leaving for a tour several years ago and he seemed proud to give the trophy to his bandmate – and they shared an emotional embrace.
Chesney brought out tour-mates Uncle Kracker and Billy Currington to help him sing some of his biggest hits. Uncle Kracker sang “When The Sun Goes Down” and did a cover of Kid Rock’s “Cowboy” while Currington came out for the second half of the song “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”.
Kenny sang “Boys Of Fall” to end his set and stated how proud he was to sing that particular song in a Stadium where so much history had been made. In expected fashion, he had images of Tom Brady and various other New England Patriots on the big screen, resulting in an uproar from the crowd.
The best part of the night was the ending when Chesney brought out the Zac Brown Band for a medley of songs. It is obvious that Chesney and Zac have become very good friends on the Tour. Chesney even told the crowd that Zac had set up a party the night before in which he and both members of the Bands sat around and played acoustic songs until 2 a.m. together. The both signed the boots Kenny was wearing during his set (during the encore he performed in bare feet with mesh shorts and a baseball cap, instead of his normal boots, jeans, and cowboy hat).
Zac and Kenny traded vocals on various covers – including Alabama’s “Dixieland Delight” and “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas”, Garth Brooks’ “Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old”, a few Bob Marley songs (in which Zac showcased his reggae skills), Sublime’s “Caress Me Down” and Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream”. As helped each other out on their own singles “Knee Deep” and “Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven”. At one point, Kenny’s tourmates dumped a cooler of ice water on him. He had to take of his shirt (in which the women around me went crazy for) and put on a sleeveless Highway 20 Ride Zac Brown Band t-shirt.
Zac Brown and his band dominated the encore when they shocked the crowd and started doing some Hip-Hop songs including Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”. If you thought ZBB was talented before, their medley of three hip hop songs made that even more evident. I wouldn’t be surprised if they come out with a country-hop song in the near future, that’s how strong Zac’s flow was. Even Zac’s security guard, Mastiff, came out to rap on the final song.
The show was overall better than the one I saw at New Meadowlands Stadium and had much more energy. Chesney seemed to hug and show love to each member of his own band, the Zac Brown Band, and each of his stage-hands and tourmates. All 59,000 people in that wet Stadium could see two things were very evident that night: (1) It is easy to see why Kenny Chesney is considered one of the best live performers in all of music today and (2) the Zac Brown Band is well on its way to be placed in that same league.
Also, one final note – I have heard horror stories about the traffic getting into and out of Gillette Stadium. Even though the show was clearly sold out, I sat in about two minutes worth of traffic total. I’m guessing the credit should go to the Police of Foxboro, MA because it was clear sailing both in and out (for me at least).
Kenny Chesney – “You & Tequila”
Kenny Chesney’s Goin’ Coastal Tour
New Meadowlands Stadium
August 13, 2011
with Zac Brown Band, Billy Currington, & Uncle Kracker
On August 13, 2011, Kenny Chesney brought his Goin’ Coastal Tour to New Jersey. This show was special for a great number of reasons. First off, Kenny is one of the few artists of ANY genre of music that can fill Stadiums up across the country and this was no exception. That steamy Saturday in East Rutherford, New Jersey a record breaking crowd was on hand to see the country crooner and his large list of guests. This particular show sold just over 55,000 tickets. Not since country legends Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard came around in 1983 had a country concert in New Jersey sold over 50,000 tickets. This show passed that show’s number in attendance. Sure Kenny is one of the best in the business today, but having the Grammy Award Winning and multi-talented Zac Brown Band on the bill with him sure helped with sales quite a bit. Throw in Billy Currington and Uncle Kracker as openers and this made the Goin’ Coastal Tour the must see tour of the summer.
Uncle Kracker and Billy Currington opened up their shorter sets with lots of familiar music. Uncle Kracker did his biggest hits such as “Follow Me” and “Smile” and stole some material from his old touring buddy, Kid Rock, as well as Kenny Rogers.
Billy Currington proved to be a crowd favorite with lots of summer drinking music such as “People Are Crazy” and “Pretty Good At Drinking Beer”. Billy used the stage and the catwalk in a slow walk, but the crowd really responded to his easy-going music. He closed out his set with “Good Directions”, a huge hit that was co-penned by Luke Bryan – and the crowd sang along with every word. By the time Billy was finishing up his set, I looked up from the floor to the 3 tiers of sections in the New Meadowlands Stadium and the place was absolutely packed.
I overheard many people who were tailgating in the parking lot state they were more excited to see the Zac Brown Band than the opener and for good reason. This band has released 8 singles to country radio and all of them have hit number 1 on the mediabase and billboard country charts. Zac Brown, naturally, is the lead singer and captain of the band. However, he makes sure that the crowd knows this is not a front man act – that they are whole band. And the entire band had their own time to shine on this day. Zac belted out his amazing vocals and intense guitar playing skills on hits like “Toes”, “As She’s Walking Away” and “Highway 20 Ride”. Jimmy DeMartini, the fiddle player/violinst, absolutely memorized the crowd with his ridiculous talent. He had tons of solos such as “Quite Your Mind” and “Free” and even used his fingers on the fiddle on “Where the Boat Leaves From”. People were shaking their heads with their jaws dropped when the spotlight was on Jimmy.
Even members like Clay Cook and Coy Bowles got their “rock star” moments on the song “Who Knows” which is essentially a ten minute jam out song with two minutes of vocals. The drummer, Chris Fryar, changed his clothes halfway through the band’s set from a New York Jets jersey to a New York Giants jersey – which made fans of both teams smile in admiration. Finally, John Driskell got to add some vocals on “It’s not Okay” and had the crowd dancing and laughing at the lyrics.
The band had a large group of the United States military come to the front of the stage before the song “Free” and they stayed throughout the final songs which happened to be a mash-up of “America, The Beautiful” and the band’s biggest single to date, “Chicken Fried”.
The Zac Brown Band oozes with talent, passion, emotional and unbelievable music ability. This band will be around for a very, very long time – and will be headlining their own Stadium Tour sometime soon, mark my word.
After a brief delay, the rain started to fall and the crowds retreated for cover and beer refills. But, when the lights went dark, the crowds ran to their seats – not even caring it was still raining. And the stage curtains raised, but Kenny Chesney appeared on a raised swing in the back of the Stadium, floating above the 55,000 cheering fans. He sang the entire first song, a recent number 1 single, “Live A Little” while flying above the crowd.
Once he landed, he was off and running, literally. The man used every inch of the massive catalk and stage. The lights went crazy in every direction and the huge interactive screens portrayed Kenny in different sides and angles throughout the concert. Kenny smashed through his hits and recents songs off his newest album, “Hemmingway’s Whiskey”.
Kenny Chesney is the penultimiate performer and he really showed it this night. From his acoustic takes on “You and Tequila” to his giant hits like “I Go Back” and “Keg in the Closet”, Kenny had the crowd in the palm of his hand. He cranked out hit after hit after hit, each song performed with just as much energy as the one before.
Kenny brought out all of his opening acts for certain select songs and covers. He of course performed “When the Sun Goes Down” with Uncle Kracker, which is one of the best summer concert songs anyone has ever written. He kept Kracker on stage for their take on The Allman Brothers song, “Midnight Rider” and even did their best hip-hop/country mash-up to Kid Rock’s “Cowboy”.
Kenny then surprised the crowd and absolutely shocked me, when he changed genres up completely and sang “Blister in the Sun”, a Violent Femmes Cover. For this, he even brought the original songwriter of the song, Mark Tamburino, out for the song.
Once the Encore came, Kenny ripped right into “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” and brought out Billy Currington for some help. Unbelievably, the best part of the night was yet to come:
At this point of the show, Kenny brought out the Zac Brown Band as they teamed up with Chesney and his band during eight unbelievable songs. Zac and Kenny took to the front and sang two of the famous country band, Alabama’s biggest hits: “Dixieland Delight” and “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas”. They teamed up for each other’s “summery” singles “Knee Deep” and “Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven”.
Then for good measure they brought up the New York Yankees’ slugger Nick Swish to help them sing “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band. Any fan of baseball knows how much a swagger and overall enthusiasm Nick Swisher has and he was full of smiles and fist pumped on stage.
Zac and Kenny and their bands finished things out with a Bob Marley, Sublime and Tom Petty Cover. They even brought ZBB-protege Sonia Leigh, the New York Jets’ coach Rex Ryan, Kenny’s mother, and others on stage to help sing and finish the party out.
Overall, the show was long (almost six and a half hours of music), but never slowed down. Zac and Kenny electrified the crowd and all 55K went home happy – tired and very happy. If there was any indication that country music was alive and well in the Garden State, you just had to look at the parking lot that became the New Jersey turnpike. But despite the traffic and rain that night, you could tell that everyone walked away satisfied. There are only a few more dates left on this tour and I am attending one again at the end of August – I would suggest any and all to check it out.
Kenny Chesney Setlist:
- Live a Little
Beer In Mexico
The Woman With You
I Go Back
No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem
Anything But Mine
There Goes My Life
You and Tequila
Living In Fast Forward
Happy Birthday to Ken (Chesney’s road manager)
Somewhere With You
Don’t Happen Twice
Never Wanted Nothing More
Out Last Night
When the Sun Goes Down with Uncle Kracker
Midnight Rider – The Allman Brothers Band Cover
Cowboy – Kid Rock Cover with Uncle Kracer
Blister in the Sun – Violent Femmes Cover with the songwriter Mark Tamburino
How Forever Feels
The Boys of Fall
She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy with Billy Currington
Dixieland Delight – Alabama Cover with Zac Brown Band
If You’re Gonna Play in Texas – Alabama Cover with Zac Brown Band
Knee Deep – with the Zac Brown Band
Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven – with Zac Brown Band
The Joker – Steve Miller Band cover with … moreZac Brown Band and appearance on-stage by Nick Swisher of New York Yankees
Three Little Birds – Bob Marley Cover with Zac Brown Band
Caress Me Down – Sublime Cover with Zac Brown Band
Runnin’ Down a Dream – Tom Petty Cover with Zac Brown Band
As She’s Walking Away
It’s Not Okay
Where the Boat Leaves From
Islands in the Steam Cover
Highway 20 Ride
Devil Went Down to Georgia – Charlie Daniels Cover
Quiet Your Mind
My Name is Money – with Sonia Leigh
Keep Me In Mid
Whatever It Is
Settle Me Down
America The Beautiful Cover
Thats How Country Boys Roll
I Want To Be A Hillybilly
I Got A Feeling
Love Done Gone
Pretty Good At Drinking Beer
All Day Long
Let Me Down Easy
Family Tradition – Hank Williams Jr. Cover
People Are Crazy
Must Be Doing Something Right
The Gambler – Kenny Rogers Cover
Good To Be Me
All Summer Long – Kid Rock Cover
1. Quiet Your Mind – Fiddle Solo – Zac Brown Band
2. Dixie Land Delight – Kenny Chesney with the Zac Brown Band