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Concert Reviews:
Zac Brown Band Brings Hoedown To A "Chicken Fried" Finish
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

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DETROIT -- Between hanging with Willie Nelson and jamming with Kid Rock, the Zac Brown Band had a good time at last year's Downtown Hoedown.

And it had a good year in the 12 months that followed, with its first major label album, "The Foundation," going double platinum and launching five hit singles, and a Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

The Georgia sextet returned to the Hoedown as heroes and headliners on Sunday night (May 16), closing the free festival -- which organizers said drew 1.3 million people to Hart Plaza -- with a generous and expansive 90-minute set that had everything from love of country to love of friend chicken and any number of other artists' music.

More than country, Brown and company are simply a stylistically diverse American band. The flavor is definitely Southern, and the instrumentation -- fiddle and the occasional mandolin and pedal steel -- gives it enough twang to fit into the Hoedown lineup. But there's more to it than that, and on Sunday the ZBB showed a bit of everything it can be, from the mellow lope of the opening "Whatever It Is" and "Highway 20 Ride" to the rowdy pluck of "Sic 'Em on a Chicken" and the Caribbean ambience of "Toes." The group channeled the spirit of the Grateful Dead into its epic jam piece "Who Knows," while it gave a swirling, Dave Matthews Band treatment to George Strait's "Beyond the Blue Neon," which was bookended with nods to Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely."

There were plenty of covers, in fact, including an unusual coupling of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Find the Cost of Freedom" with the Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," the latter showcasing fiddler Jimmy De Martini. The ZBB also dipped into The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (sung by multi-instrumentalist Clay Cook) and laced snippets of Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic" and Bob Marley's "One Love" into "Free" and "Where the Boat Leaves From," respectively. The ZBB included its version of Ray LaMontagne's "Jolene" and, after Brown gave props to U.S. military personnel serving overseas, played "America the Beautiful" before bringing a couple of troops on stage for a salute during the set-closing "Chicken Fried."

And if all that wasn't enough, the ZBB served up a few samples from the new album it's currently finishing, including the gentle "No Hurry," the upbeat "Settle Me Down" and the mellow and "Colder Weather," which was first recorded at Kid Rock's studio after the group's gig at the 2009 Hoedown.

It was, without question, a triumphant return for the ZBB, who were cheered on by several Detroit Lions -- including quarterback Matt Stafford, who visited with Brown on his bus before the show -- Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard and former Red Wing Chris Chelios. And Sunday's show surely whetted appetites for group's return to town on Aug. 18 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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