ZBB Takes on Citi with an Empire State on Mind

1

Zac Brown Band – Citi Field, NYC – August 21, 2015

2

When Zac Brown Band’s Jekyll + Hyde album was released, most of the so called “critics” gave mixed reviews due to the diversity of the genres they attempted to cover.  However, if any of those critics were present at New York City’s Citi Field this past weekend, they would have completely understood ZBB’s mindset with that project.  I was in the pit for the first night of their two night stand, and witnessed a band truly transform into a Jekyll + Hyde monster.  One who could sing country music songs with the best of them, but could also jam out, rock, and get people raving to EDM without missing a beat.

6

I’ve seen ZBB live numerous times before and have been at every one of their NYC shows, starting with Bowery Ballroom, and working their way up through Terminal 5, opening for Kenny Chesney at MetLife Stadium, opening for Dave Matthews Band at Citi Field, and headlining gigs at Madison Square Garden and Forest Hills Stadium.  The best part about seeing this band time and time again, in comparison to most acts, is that every night they put forth a different setlist.  Friday night was no different, as they opened with “Sweet Annie”, a song that just sometimes makes their setlists.

7

What followed was a first half of the show that included hits such as “Toes”, “As She’s Walking Away” and “Knee Deep” as well as covers from Led Zeppelin, Charlie Daniels Band, and Billy Joel, as well as a bunch of the new songs, highlighted by the moving tribute to our military with the Jason Isbell penned “Dress Blues”.  During that song, two Marines came out to salute the crowd atop the third level of the ambitious stage ZBB is illuminating stadiums with on this tour.  Jimmy De Martini, the band’s amazing fiddler, broke into an emotional rendition of taps mid song, and Coy Bowles had a rockstar moment as he jammed out following the fiddle.  Zac Brown, who is far from chatty at his shows, took a few seconds to thank the US military post-song, as the sold out crowd berated the band with chants of” USA”.

8

After a few t shirts were shot into the crowd by the band members, an acoustic set took place at the front of the catwalk.  Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” and the emotional song for all dad’s who have little girls like myself, “I’ll Be Your Man” (backed by a gospel choir) showcased the true musicianship that ZBB possesses.  Whether its classic rock, country, or just good old songs that tug at the heartstrings, I dare someone to show me a better live performing act in any genre of music today.

10

After a ten minute intermission, the band upped the ante and brought some high energy excitement to the Mets Ballpark.  Whether it was the EDM inspired “Beautiful Drug”, which happens to be their new single, or the recent chart topper on the rock charts, “Heavy is the Head”, Zac’s face started to change to complete intensity.  The gospel choir came back out for a beautiful rendition of “Remedy” and Zac ripped into Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” mid way through the mega hit “Keep Me In Mind”.  ZBB kept the crowd guessing with what was coming next and, boy, was it fun.

14

The last three songs of the set before the encore are a perfect testament to what kind of band ZBB is.  For all you critics out there, you need to listen up, this is not a country band.  You cannot label them as so.  Just sit there and watch them do a 21 minute version of “Who Knows” complete with Clay Cook absolutely shredding a guitar that would make Brad Paisley and Keith Urban jealous.  Then watch them pay homage to a band they opened for just five years ago in the same stadium, as they performed “Stay” by the Dave Matthews Band flawlessly.  Then watch them get every single person in the entire stadium singing along to “Chicken Fried”.  The live performance beast monster that they are touches on every single genre, just as their new album does.  It’s meant to create a spectacle live, and they do it better than anyone else.

17

ZBB’s encore consisted of Zac coming out with his third different hat of the night, this time a throwback Mets hat, as he walked through the entire pit shaking hands and slapping five as he belted out “Colder Weather”.  And the band finished up with yet another full on sing-a-long as “Homegrown” was performed to perfection.  I heard people walking out stating it was the best show they’ve ever seen and it just made me smile.  The people who see ZBB live get it, this is not a country band.  It is a unique creature that executes on stage better than anyone else out there today.

19

20

21

22

23

SETLIST:

  1. Sweet Annie
  2. Uncage
  3. Kashmir
  4. Devil Went Down to Georgia
  5. Knee Deep
  6. As She’s Walking Away
  7. Tomorrow Never Comes
  8. Dress Blues
  9. Castway
  10. Toes
  11. Piano Man
  12. I’ll be Your Man
  13. Beautiful Drug
  14. Day for the Dead
  15. Remedy
  16. Keep Me In Mind
  17. Empire State of Mind
  18. Heavy is the Head
  19. Lovin’ You Easy
  20. Who Knows
  21. Stay (Wasting Time)
  22. Chicken Fried
  23. Colder Weather
  24. Homegrown

Zac Brown Band Rocks Hartford

mtms-transparent

  Zac Brown Band – Jekyll + Hyde Tour – June 6, 2015 – Hartford, CT

Guest Blog by Kellie Lambert (@kellie3lambert)

Throughout my entire life, I have been a rocker chick. My tastes may have drifted in and out of various genres, loving all types of music, by my heart lies in the sweet sounds of classic rock, of guitar-slinging musicians and poetic lyrics that far outweigh what is often offered on modern mainstream radio.

In the past year, I’ve delved much deeper in the county realm, as I discover how rock and roll it can be. And that’s how I discovered Zac Brown Band – a group that is as much rock as country, a musical chameleon that can change and morph into just about any style on stage. I became, shall we say, a little obsessed with how simple, yet how complicated, some of their songs were. Lyrics that seemed to be poignant and positive and accompanying layers of music with hooks that I could not shake from my head.

1

When the band put Hartford on its list of “Jekyll + Hyde” tour dates this summer, I knew I would beg, borrow or steal to land in that audience on June 6. Luckily, my writing gigs allow me the chance to see concerts – as I often review them – so I was lucky to be at the Xfinity Theatre on Saturday to check out what has become one of my all-time favorite bands.

When Zac and company took the stage and launched into “Homegrown,” off its new album, the audience was clearly ready to join in the musical adventure. The band – which features eight core musicians – was set up on a two-tiered stage set with a walkway jutting into the general admission pit. The percussion and horn section was not hidden in the back, as in a standard concert set-up, but showcased on a higher level to be seen in its full glory. By the impressive structure, and large video screens within it, fans in every corner of the arena could appreciate the visuals.

3

But beyond the flashy visuals was the completely organic, audio pleasure: Musical surprises tucked into the set list. Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” leading into Charlie Daniels Band’s “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” a traditional mash-up with the band’s own “Free.” The Beatles’ “Let it Be,” performed in the vein it was intended. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” an impressive undertaking yet the musicians’ paid homage to the classic. And The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge,” an alternative throw-back that was unexpected to the audience. Zac Brown Band is, in my opinion, one of the world’s best rock cover bands. Except you still appreciate them for their own twist on each cover.

However, Zac Brown Band is not just about performing other’s classics: The group’s own music is just as notable. The band played a bunch of tracks from “Jekyll + Hyde,” including the breezy “Loving You Easy,” as well as “Bittersweet,” “Castaway” “Tomorrow Never Comes,” and “Dress Blues,” the Jason Isbell song honoring our military, which featured a poignant, patriotic moment where a U.S. Marine came out on stage to salute.

The encores lasted deep into the night, ending two and a half hours of tunes, as the band pulled out many of its greatest hits for a sing-a-long with thousands of fans reaching up onto the dark lawn. “Knee Deep,” with its happy summer lyrics, pleased the Parrottheads, but the band turned the mood on its side with the next track, one appealing to the rock contingent: the heavy-hitting “Heavy Is the Head,” the Chris Cornell duet on “Jekyll + Hyde,” which was a total treat since it had not appeared regularly on this tour’s set lists yet.

4

Confetti cannons filled the night air with paper snow as the band ended the concert with its classic hit “Chicken Fried,” the perfect finale choice with its simple, homegrown life lessons, quotable lines that remind us to appreciate our blessings – musical and otherwise – on this planet. It is funny how it’s the little things in life that mean the most, like a great concert by a talented band under the stars outside on a Saturday night.

The “Jekyll + Hyde” tour is in full swing this summer, and if you get a chance to grab a ticket, don’t hesitate. It’s worth every penny.

2

SETLIST:

  1. Homegrown
  2. Uncaged
  3. Kashmir
  4. Devil Went Down to Georgia
  5. Free
  6. Into the Mystic
  7. Remedy
  8. Toes
  9. Day For the Dead
  10. Bittersweet
  11. Castaway
  12. Sweet Annie
  13. Under the Bridge
  14. Let It Be
  15. Colder Weather
  16. Keep Me In Mind
  17. Bohemian Rhapsody
  18. Dress Blues
  19. Loving You Easy
  20. Beautiful Drug
  21. Who Knows
  22. One Day
  23. Knee Deep
  24. Tomorrow Never Comes
  25. Heavy Is The Head (ENCORE)
  26. Chicken Fried (ENCORE)

Kellie Lambert is a freelance writer who has been published in numerous publications in print and online. She has been writing about the Connecticut music scene for more than two decades. She has a weekly music column in the Waterbury, Conn. newspaper, The Republican-American, and a weekly entertainment column in the Observer newspapers, in Bristol and Southington, Conn. She blogs about her life at thepeapodblog.wordpress.com, and can be found on Twitter @kellie3lambert.