While many country acts feel like an appropriate billing to follow livestock festivities at the rodeo, few outfits truly feel at home the way eight-time rodeo alums Zac Brown Band did Monday, March 11.
Instead of leaping onto the energy set up by rodeo announcers and pre-show warmup pyrotechnics, the band took a measured beat of silence before opening on the soft, acoustic strumming of the single “Knee Deep” around 9:03 pm.
Zac Brown Band has been a staple of the Houston Livestock and Rodeo headlining rotation, having missed only one year (2016) out of the last nine. Brown himself was engaged with the audience intimately from the first song, immediately addressing the crowd with warm remarks about the band's fondness for the event.
One thing was clear as soon as the show started, Zac Brown is a man for country and non-country fans.
The group did a stellar job of occupying every inch of the sonic spectrum without sounding too busy or on top of one another. Brown introduced the crowd to one of the band’s new singles, “Someone I Used to Know,” after only two songs into the set. The sweltering, almost EDM-inspired violin harmony landed well with the early spring break crowd. (Note to fans: This may be a preview of the kind of energy the groups purportedly “genre-less” next album may hold.)
After a few songs on the well-orchestrated setlist, Brown strapped on an electric guitar and dedicated the next song to Greg Allman before diving into the late songwriter’s epic “Whipping Post,” which featured Brown and fellow guitarist Coy Bowles trading off inspired solos during the distended cover that clocked in around seven minutes.
The band made good use of the stage despite not moving much in the beginning, stepping out and exploring its limits around the 25-minute mark. As if they hadn't impressed enough, at some point halfway through the set, they jumped into a rendition of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” that Old Scratch himself would have found difficult to keep up with. The group roared through an even faster-than-usual version of this tune, one filled with teases of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” and impressive solos from every member involved.
Then the act effortlessly segued from the spitfire energy of the “Devil” into ballads like “Colder Weather,” which brought out the phone lights in droves.
The mix of covers and fan favorites made the eight-piece outfit shine like very few can in such an environment, whether it was by gripping listeners’ hearts with the familiar jingle of “Toes,” or by jumping into the Eagles’ “Take it to the Limit” for only a few bars.
A cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” served only to showcase the virtuoso greatness of fiddler Jimmy De Martini (who took over for Kirk Hammett sweeping guitar solos).
Brown ended the performance with a crowd pleaser in “Chicken Fried” that had 69,570 people in attendance singing along. He thanked every member of his band individually before cooly hopping on the bed of a Ford pickup and being whisked away — amidst roars of approval from the enamored, devoted fans.
“Keep Me in Mind”
“Someone I Used to Know”
“As She’s Walking Away”
“Devil Went Down to Georgia”
“Take it to the Limit” (Eagles)
“Enter Sandman” (Metallica)