Review+Photos by Ken McCain
October 27, 2017 | Mountain View, CA – As summer has drawn to an end, it’s brought the falling leaves and a chill to the air. The warm nights that we’ve enjoyed through the recent months are fleeting, and the outdoor concerts everywhere are taking their final curtains. The artists that have made their stops at the Shoreline Amphitheater this year have been top-notch, as always, so it’s fitting that the last scheduled act of the season was the Zac Brown Band. (*Luke Bryan was rescheduled from a previous date and will be this year’s final show). For those unfamiliar to the Zac Brown Band (ZBB), they are a multi-talented, Grammy award winning country band comprised of eight musicians:
Zachry Alexander “Zac” Brown (lead vocals, guitar), Jimmy De Martini (fiddle, vocals), John Driskell “Hop” Hopkins (bass guitar, guitar, baritone guitar, banjo, ukulele, upright bass, vocals), Coy Bowles (guitar, keyboards), Chris Fryar (drums), Clay Cook (guitar, keyboards, mandolin, steel guitar, vocals), Matt Mangano (bass guitar), and Daniel de los Reyes (percussion). For this tour they were joined for a number of shows by Darrell Scott and Caroline Jones.
Caroline Jones opened the show with a nice 20 minute set of her songs, getting the crowd warmed up for the long night ahead. Her trio behind her kept the music moving along, as their time was short. However, after being named one of Rolling Stone’s “10 Country Artists You Need to Know,” her star is rising and soon she’ll be headlining one of her own tours! After a quick stage change, Darrell Scott came out and began the second set. He was joined slowly by members of the ZBB, and within 45 minutes had all members out on stage “sittin’ around the porch” and jamming to a number of familiar and unfamiliar country and bluegrass tunes. The curtains came down and a projected ZBB logo emblazoned the large screen.
Another short break ensued, however, since most everything and everyone was in place, the curtains quickly drew and the lights went up. Zac is able to draw from his six studio albums, including his latest ‘Welcome Home’, to create a great setlist for his show. And his talented band can recreate each and every song night after night with seemingly flawless ability. He is considered more than just a country artist, crossing genres into rock and blues. With this crossover ability, he includes songs from many of his musical influences and favorite performers. Artists they cover on this tour include Tom Petty, Kings of Leon, John Prine, Van Halen(!), Dixie Chicks, Travis Tritt, and Queen. One song they have covered consistently has been The Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post”. This was the highlight of the night as they jammed on this classic Southern Rock tune. During the nearly 20 minute song each guitarist soloed throughout, and keyboardist Clay Cook belted out the vocals while killing it on the Hammond organ. It was quite a surprise to me and others in attendance, leaving us all speechless and giving a standing ovation as they went into their intermission.
Akin to many Grateful Dead shows I’ve attended, the band came out of a short break and into a percussion jam. Zac includes not only a complete drum kit played by Chris Fryar, but also a complex percussion setup for the amazing Daniel de los Reyes with timbales, cowbells, cymbals, custom high-hats with tambourines, chimes, bongos, kick drums, and who knows what else! The two of them fed off each other for 10 minutes or so (much less than any Dead show did), then kicked back into gear with the rest of the band for a few of their hits. I’ve heard Zac say that he likes to keep things new with each tour, changing things up each time he visits a city. Some may say that playing other peoples’ music doesn’t highlight the artist, but I think it shows how deep their art is. Taking risks with an audience by playing a guitar duel as they did for their encore, and finishing with Van Halen’s “Panama” could have backfired, especially when the audience is “Country-based” and they play Rock. Yet, they pulled it all off that night, and every night, as their fans are perhaps a bit more broad in their music appreciation than the average concert-goer.
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