Review: Zac Brown Band Offer Spot-on Harmonies, Eclectic Covers on Black Out the Sun Tour
When it comes to the setlist, Zac Brown Band concertgoers never quite know what they're going to get -- but in terms of quality, they can always expect it to be top notch. Between their spot-on harmonies, the long list of hits the band has to work with and their penchant for unique covers, ZBB have plenty to offer on their 2016 Black Out the Sun Tour.
Zac Brown Band opened their show on Sunday night (July 3) at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center in Western New York with "Whiskey's Gone." The barn-burner of a tune quickly ramped up the near-capacity crowd, many of whom continued to loudly cheer and sing along to the next two songs, "Knee Deep" and "Homegrown." Throughout their two-hour set, ZBB also shared "No Hurry," "Toes" and many more, each about as perfect as you'll ever hear in a live setting.
Brown and his seven bandmates -- not to mention the additional touring musicians they bring with them on the road -- are exceptional players, as country fans know, but still, it's a pretty impressive feat that Brown and company play so flawlessly each night, given that there's a dozen or so of them up on their two-tiered stage. That's a lot of moving pieces -- but that also gives a lot of room to experiment and build on the album versions of songs. For example, "Free" began with a beautiful fiddle solo from Jimmy De Martini, while the horn section added an extra layer to "Lovin' You Easy."
ZBB's in-concert covers are the stuff of legend -- one night, you might hear Metallica; the next night, you might hear Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats -- and the band gave their Sunday night crowd plenty of them. They broke out "Baba O'Riley" just four songs into their show, that aforementioned horn section bringing a funkiness not found in the Who's original, and offered up Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" near the end of the night. Fans also got to hear Magic!'s "No Way No" -- the perfect reggae-infused lead-in to "Castaway" -- and the Chainsmokers' "Don't Let Me Down."
The variety of their cover song selections is indicative of Zac Brown Band's set as a whole, really. During the second half of their show, the group moved from the EDM-influenced "Like Tomorrow Never Comes" into the somber, soaring "Colder Weather" -- with Brown seated on the edge of the stage, singing to and interacting with those at the front of the crowd -- into "Chicken Fried," which felt extra patriotic mere hours before the Fourth of July. And before a brief intermission, ZBB simplified their set for four acoustic songs: David Allan Coe's "You Never Even Called Me By My Name," "Sweet Annie," "Day That I Die" and "As She's Walking Away."
Drake White's brand of country music, infused with rock, soul and the personality of a Southern preacher, made the up-and-comer a worthy opener for Zac Brown Band. At the end of the night, as the headliners were saying their goodbyes, Brown praised White and his band, the Big Fire, calling them an "incredible young man, great band."
ZBB have Black Out the Sun Tour stops scheduled through September. Additional information is available on their website.
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