Zac Brown had a pretty good weekend. After purchasing the Rodeo’s mixed breed reserve champion for $330,000 (along with his wife Shelly and two other couples) and dining at Ruggles Black Saturday night, Brown and his seven-piece band closed out the RodeoHouston concert lineup with a sold-out show Sunday night at NRG Stadium.
The night’s attendance of 74,428, combined with the day’s fantastic weather, proved good enough to push the show’s total visitor count to over 2.6 million, a new record.
If one of the themes of this year’s Rodeo lineup is a changing of the guard — as new acts like Chris Stapleton, Blink 182, and the Chainsmokers make their debuts alongside more classic country crooners like Alan Jackson and Willie Nelson — the Zac Brown Band occupies a space somewhat in between. That seems fitting for a band that’s certainly a little bit country but also rock ‘n roll enough to turn in a thunderous cover of Queen’s epic "Bohemian Rhapsody."
On stage, Brown is friendly but not very chatty. For example, he didn’t say anything about his winning bid during the 13-song, hour-long set. Instead, the stage banter stayed on topic. Was the band “proud to be here wrapping up the Rodeo tonight?” Indeed, Brown assured us they were.
More than anything, Brown seemed focused on getting the crowd to sing along with him on songs like “Tomorrow Never Comes,” where he taught the audience a short lyric and the rhythm for repeating it, and calling for the “Vaya con Dios,” during the chorus of “Toes.”
Although the concert lacked the flash of a dramatic light show or booming pyro of some of the Rodeo’s others performers, it didn’t really need it. Now up to six Rodeo performances, the band knows how to maximize their presence on the rotating stage. In particular, Brown’s harmonies with fiddle player Jimmy De Martini enhanced almost every song.
De Martini also shined on a solo during “My Old Man,” which was one of two tracks from the band’s upcoming album Welcome Home. Set to be released in May, the band has said the album will be a return to its root and both “My Old Man” and “Real Thing” certainly fit in with the older songs.
“Colder Weather” had the audience singing along and swaying their phones. The show then took on a more energetic mode with “Toes” leading into “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Brown closed the set with “Chicken Fried” before climbing into the back of a pickup and riding off into the sunset.
“We’ll be back next year,” he said before departing. While 2018’s closing honors will belong to Garth Brooks, expect the Rodeo to find a way to help Brown keep that parting promise.
Tomorrow Never Comes
Keep Me In Mind
My Old Man