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Concert Reviews:
The Zac Brown Band delivers a chicken-friend good time at Comerica Park
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT -- The Zac Brown Band is no stranger to playing outside in Detroit.

The Georgia troupe was, after all, a highlight at two Downtown Hoedowns during its days in Hart Plaza, bringing big crowds and even capping its first show by writing the hit ballad "Colder Weather" at Kid Rock's studio in Clarkston.

But on Saturday night, Sept. 12, the ZBB hit a new high mark with an impressively diverse, genre hopping two-hour and 20-minute concert at Comerica Park that had more hits than the Tigers' last home stand and plenty of surprises to go with them. Like the group's latest album, "Jekyll + Hyde," the 22-song set proved again that the septet -- augmented by a three-man horn section and a four-voice "choir" -- has pushed well beyond the confines of the country market where it staked its initial claim and now sits as simply another hard-to-peg American music band in the tradition of the Grateful Dead, Little Feat and fellow southerners the Dave Matthews Band.

So Saturday's show flowed from the breezy melodicism of the opening "Homegrown" and "Keep Me in Mind" to life-style defining hits such as "Toes" and "Chicken Fried," the Caribbean flavor of "Castaway," the smooth funk of "Loving You Easy" and the grungey wallop of "Heavy Is the Head." The "Beautiful Drug" wouldn't sound out of place in the contemporary pop canon of Taylor Swift or One Direction, while "Remedy," which Brown referred to as "the most important song we've ever written," dripped with soulful social consciousness.

And if anyone doubted the importance of Band in the group's name, they only had to listen to the its rich harmonies or witness the intense, extended jams on a cover of the Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," "Neon" and "Day For the Dead" that let Brown's mates strut their stuff.

A ZBB show is also about the nods to influences and favorites, and the group -- which ushered in the last couple of New Years at Joe Louis Arena -- had some inspired ones for its Detroit crowd. The ZBB has long fused Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic" with "Free," but it also dipped into the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" into its three-song acoustic set and roared through Metallica's "Enter Sandman" with rough and tumble exuberance. The group featured "choir" member Jason Eskridge during a specially constructed Motown medley that included the Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" and "My Girl," Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and "Sir Duke," and Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," while the encore rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" was an impressive exposition of the ZBB's fearless bravado.

And though the visual production, including video screens on and behind the stage, the ZBB also kept the music the star of the night, keeping the stunts and gimmicks -- such as confetti and a mid-show T-shirt toss -- to a minimum. The night's only miscue was a 10-minute intermission after the acoustic set, which wasn't enough time to get a beer but did rob the show of some momentum that took the ZBB a few songs to regain.

But it's safe to say few in the non-sellout crowd at Comerica were left wanting on Saturday. The ZBB covered plenty of bases, all of them well, and certainly left fans anxious for a repeat experience, wherever the group chooses to play next time.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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