Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
he Zac Brown Band could have been called upon to provide the musical antidote to a difficult year and a most different holiday season. And that they did in a special concert relying mainly on their hits.
ZBB kicked off the night with their 2015 hit, "Homegrown," an ode to small town life without overdoing the nostalgia as many country songs seem to do. And with that, ZBB's easy-going sound soothes as well. While "Homegrown" was more of a country song with banjo and other country instrumentation, ZBB would not be tied down musically. "Keep Me In Mind" and its syncopated beat had a little bit of a soulful flair, part of ZBB's repertoire.
And the soulful sound meshes perfectly with Brown's vocal capabilities. Yes, he's fine with easy going tropical sounds and straight ahead country, but his bread and butter are the soulful songs.
One of the constants of ZBB are the backing harmonies, layering the sound and putting a bit more meat on the material ("Sweet Annie," "Colder "Weather" and especially on "Day That I Die").
Brown did not assume all lead vocals. John Driskell Hopkins had a bit of Charlie Daniels-styled vocals on "It's Not Okay," offering a nice change from Brown. Actually the song had a CDB feel to it as well.
The show was also for a good cause – a benefit for the Polaris Proud American Thank You Concert Benefitting Camp Southern Ground in Georgia, a live streaming event honoring veterans and military personnel. The concert was interspersed with personal stories and Polaris ads. The camp, founded by Brown in 2011, offers programs to soldiers, who have experienced emotional problems, as well as kids.
While most of the show featured hit songs from the past (including a nicely done "As She's Walkin' Away"), the band also threw in a new song. "The Man Who Loved You the Most," a gentle ode by Brown to his daughters about being on the road, but always remembering them, was penned by Brown during Covid. "Love you guys," intoned Brown at the end of the song, which sounds like the type of song a father might sing to his daughter at her wedding.
But in general this was a night dedicated to the band's multitude of hits – from the tropical sounding "Toes" (a song that one could easily imagine Kenny Chesney singing) to the lower key "Free." Maybe it was the fact that ZBB – like almost all other musicians – didn't have a chance to hit the sheds or arenas that made for an evening of heartfelt music no matter how many times they've played the songs on the set list. Let's put it this way. ZBB didn't exhibit any rust from lack of touring.
"All of the things that you take for granted, this is an amazing time to think about all the things that matter," Brown said in one of his very few comments from the stage, before launching into "Chicken Fried."
The song recalls the past of good times (like pecan pie) of hometown along with those "who paid the ultimate price." With Brown also talking about longing to hit the road again, good feelings will have to do for now, and Zac Brown Band more than did its share tonight.
Keep Me in Mind
It's Not Okay
The Man Who Loves You the Most
As She's Walking Away
Day That I Die