The Zac Brown Band was welcomed into the Bay Area by thousands of country fans. The group has become accustomed to ear splitting screams and crowds that eclipse tens of thousands. After releasing “Chicken Fried,” the rise to super stardom was quick and also peppered with a few more catchy songs. “Toes,” and “Highway 20 Ride,” among them.
Now that Zac Brown and his crew are all settled at the top of the country industry they’re bringing along a talented artist with them. Nic Cowan hit the stage first and although he looks like he should be fronting a hard rock band somewhere on the Sunset strip, the audience took a liking to him by the end of his set.
Cowan has a unique voice and fits Southern Ground Rock, the label he resides on, perfectly. His new album “Hardheaded,” was released last year and its songs translate well to a live audience. Cowan is playing large amphitheaters as an opening act but also head ling small clubs on off nights. This is a testament to the work ethic that has landed him these huge gigs but also made him a head liner in his own right.
As Cowan ended his impressive set a buzz had already set in. When Zac Brown emerged the Shoreline Amphitheater shook. The band launched into a string of hits. No waiting for that first recognizable song. They came out swinging. In fact, the entire show was balanced perfectly. Guitar and drum solos were well received and not overdone. The point was clear though: The Zac Brown Band is old school through and through. They’re more Haggard than McGraw.
Mainstream country music sounds a little like pop these days. Although, Brown and company are certainly mainstream, they do some things in their live set that are both unique and not seen much at other country concerts. After a brief video cameo from Gene Simmons of KISS was seen on the over sized screens, Brown emerged and was airborne, lifted 30 feet above the audience. In a Simmons-esque move the vocalist was flying with a giant smile.
It was surprises like that along with impressive vocals from Brown and the impeccable band behind him that made the long set flow. Brown gave the audience their money’s worth with a performance that eclipsed the 2 hour mark. A set like that can lag at times, but Brown’s never ending song book of memorable melodies and sing-along lyrics, made the marathon performance fly by.
The show closed with fried chicken and ice cold beer on a Friday night. The lyrics were screamed from every corner of the amphitheater as “Chicken Fried,” was finally blasted through the amplifiers. Brown brought a night full of surprises, including a brand new artist in Cowan who could be head lining soon. A band that takes the music just as seriously as sending the audience home happy.