Hot country band brings its Grammy Award-winning sound to Paso Robles
Note: As part of The Tribune’s coverage of the 2012 California Mid-State Fair, we’re running a series of concert reviews. Below, Tribune writer Julia Hickey reviews a concert by country music’s Zac Brown Band.
The most glamorous thing about Zac Brown — wearing a tan button-up shirt and trucker hat –was his wide, white smile as he belted out hits to thousands of screaming fans Thursday night at the California Mid-State Fair.
The no-frills Zac Brown Band didn’t need any fireworks or fanfare. Their new album, “Uncaged,” recently debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, beating out releases by Frank Ocean and Justin Bieber.
“There’s a lot of rap records out there that got beat out by real music!” Brown boasted mid-show. The audience shouted its agreement.
Performing without an opening act, the Georgia-based band came onstage as fans clamored for beer at concession tents and poured into the stadium. A hot orange sunset glowed over the Chumash Grandstand Arena’s big American flag and the hills behind the stage, but as the sky cooled, the music heated up.
The seven-member Zac Brown Band has a tight, big sound that ranges from straight country to the clamor of hard rock, the ease of Jimmy Buffett, and the lilt of reggae. (This was notably the first time I’ve ever seen cowboy hats swaying to a rasta beat.)
The band proved its deep musical chops early on with a lead guitar solo by Clay Cook, who slammed more like a hard rocker than a cowboy for an impressive two minutes or more.
Later, Cook wowed the crowd by singing a cover of Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See.”
During Brown’s impressive and surprising vocal cover of John Mayer’s “Neon,” Jimmy DeMartini whittled away at his fiddle so furiously it began to sound like a screaming lead guitar.
What is unapparent on the albums but obvious in concert is that each of the band’s vocalists — which include Cook, DeMartini and the gruff John Driskell Hopkins — can really sing. One could imagine each man as capable of headlining a group of his own.
It’s also clear why Zac Brown’s voice is central. His rich wail anchored the show with notes that grew from tender to grand — as showcased in his rendition of “Free.”
Late in the set, a rousing rendition of “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” a huge if predictable crowd-pleaser, proved that for the Zac Brown Band, excellence and musicianship negates the need for originality.
The band’s enthusiasm and freshness was apparent as they approached every song with the passion of a final encore. So much so that when the true encore finally came, with the eagerly awaited hit, “Chicken Fried,” the audience left fully satisfied.
Zac Brown Band photo by Brittany App.
The California Mid-State Fair runs today through July 29 at the Paso Robles Event Center, 2198 Riverside Ave. in Paso Robles. For more information about upcoming concerts, call 1-800-909-FAIR (3247) or visit www.midstatefair.com.
No related posts.