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Concert Reviews:
Zac Brown Band heats up chilly night at DTE

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Monday, September 15, 2014

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- It wasn't New Year's Eve -- though temperatures that dipped into the high 40s made it feel closer to that than late summer -- but that didn't in any way diminish the enthusiasm of Zac Brown Band's party on Sunday night, Sept. 14, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

After ushering in the past two new years at Joe Louis Arena, the multi-platinum Georgia group returned outdoors with a characteristically exciting and wide-ranging set, delivering 27 songs over the course of two hours and 40 minutes that certainly stretched the parameters of the country genre that's its primary home. After all, not many country acts would dare to recreate Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- in its entirety, mind you -- or spice up their sets with the kind of loose-limbed instrumental dexterity that's more commonly associated with rock's am bands.

The ZBB did all that as part of its Great American Road Trip tour, while also helping Detroit country station WYCD-FM celebrate its 21st birthday. The octet dutifully and exuberantly delivered its impressive stash of No. 1 hits -- including "Toes," "Colder Weather," "Knee Deep," "Keep Me in Mind," "As She`s Walking Away" and "Sweet Annie" -- and other favorites such as "Whiskey's Gone," "Different Kind of Fine" and "Jump Right In." But the set was particularly marked by smart and occasionally daring covers and the odd surprises that were thrown into the proceedings.

Multi-instrumentalist Clay Cook emoted for a bit of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," for instance, which charged into a full treatment of the Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" that spotlighted fiddler Jimmy De Martini. During a short acoustic set Brown paid tribute to Garth Brooks' recent return to the road, announcing that "We're trying to call him out so we can do some collaborations with him" before performing Brooks' "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)." The group previewed "One Day," a new song intended for the next ZBB album that will be recorded this fall and out early next year, before finishing the first half of the show with Billy Joel's "Piano Man."

An epic rendition of the Marshall Tucker Band's "Can't You See," sung by Cook and propelled by fierce guitar work by him and Coy Bowles. Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" morphed out of "Where the Boat Leaves From" and the ZBB's "Free" slid into Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic" and back again.

The group did have its jump-the-shark moments during the show. Changing into skeleton costumes for "Day For the Dead" was a bit excessive, while "Bohemian Rhapsody" was a clever novelty but ultimately not as effective as the ZBB's performances of its own material. But with "Chicken Friend" closing things out, its safe to say most everybody at DTE left in the same festival mood in which they arrived.

Ryan Kinder, the Alabama-born newcomer who opened the night, established himself as a one-to-watch with his almost 40-minute set. A guitar-slinger as well as a singer, Kinder and his band whipped through an uptemo country-rock set that won over the night's early arrivals before closing with his single, a smooth ballad called "Kiss Me When I'm Down" that had all the markings of a reputation-making hit.

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