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ZBB gives audience what it wants

FivePoint Amphitheatre, Irvine, Cal., October 20, 2023

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Zac Brown knows what his audience wants, which is the hits, and so that's exactly what he gave them on this cool night. In fact, he got to "Toes" only the second song in. Brown is a little bit James Taylor (gentle and soft) and a tad Jimmy Buffett (let's party!), and this show was just the right mixture of both these characteristics.

Brown broke his show into two sets, with a brief intermission in between. He used this first half to bring back two of his opening acts as King Calaway sang "When I Get Home" with him, while Marcus King added an electric guitar solo to a cover of Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" to close out the first set.

The show's second half was stocked with hits and covers. Brown covered both U2's "With or Without You" and Radiohead's "Creep." Both of these songs require strong singing, and Brown proved to be up to the task. We may not always think of Brown as a robust vocalist, but he sang both of these especially powerfully. Although Brown has dipped his toes into dance music that veers away from the rootsy, country-folk he's best known for, "Beautiful Drug" was the only song slightly of this nature performed tonight. It was much more country-fied live, too, as Brown played bluegrass-y banjo on it.

Much of Brown's setlist was drawn from older material with most of his choices dating back at least a decade or so. One exception was "Same Boat," which is from his 2021 "The Comeback" album. This crowd was clearly loving singing along with his older romantic songs, like "Loving You Easy" and "Keep Me in Mind."

Zac Brown may be a restless spirit, creatively speaking, but when it comes to performing live, he knows exactly which side his bread is buttered on. These folks want to hear about romance and downhome life, performed in a melodic, unthreatening manner. In response, Zac Brown Band gave his audience exactly what they came to hear.

The baby-faced Marcus King preceded Brown with a mixture of country, blues and Southern rock, while opener King Calaway leaned closer to straightforward country. The concert started at the early time of 6:30 p.m., which meant many were still getting parked while King Calaway was performing. However, for those that made it there on time, it made for a long, enjoyable night of music.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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