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Concert Reviews:
Zac Brown Band makes a winning return to DTE

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Sunday, July 3, 2016

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- It's been a summer for some of music's most popular summer act to find that they can go home again -- at least to the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

Last month Jimmy Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band returned after several years of playing in Detroit proper, and the Zac Brown Band, country music's Buffett equivalent, did the same on Saturday night, July 3, after a couple of New Year's Eves at Joe Louis Arena and last September's visit to Comerica Park.

And since DTE's capacity of 15,000 is less than half the number of those who saw the ZBB at Comerica, Saturday's show was a hot ticket indeed. With good reason.

Musically dynamic and filled with surprises, the Georgia octet's two-hour, 19-song set was a prototypical party for the Saturday night of a holiday weekend. Augmented by a three-piece horn section and two additional backing vocalists, Brown and company were characteristically airtight and on point, grooving through favorites such as "Homegrown" and "Knee Deep" -- which opened the show with solid one-two punch -- as well as "Castaway," "Remedy," "Keep Me In Mind" (stretched out with band member introductions and solos), buoyant treatments of "Tomorrow Never Comes" and "Loving You Easy," and the surging pop anthem "Beautiful Drug."

But what really makes a ZBB show special is the other things the group has up its sleeve, particularly the covers that reinforce how deep and varied the band's collective roots are and how much fun it has in showing them off. The Who's "Baba O'Riley" was treated to an extended jazzy and brassy romp, while Metallica's "Enter Sandman," sung by John Driskell Hopkins, was a fiery hoot, complete with Jimmy De Martini recreating the guitar solo on his fiddle. The ZBB powered through a New Orleans-flavored treatment of Nathaniel Rateliff's "S.O.B." and deftly handled the reggae-pop of the Chainsmokers' "Don't Let Me Down," while an encore rendition of Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" found Brown on bass as Hopkins intoned the opening sermon and Clay Cook sang lead and ripped through the guitar solos.

Brown and his bandmates tossed and shot T-shirts into the crowd while crew members set up the stage for the night's acoustic segment, and they settled down for not-so-settled versions of the hit "Toes," a sharp cover of Amos Lee's "Supply and Demand" and a moving "I'll Be Your Man (Song For a Daughter)" that was enriched by a soaring vocal arrangement.

The ZBB kept the throttle high from start to finish, slowing down only for an emotive rendering of the ballad "Colder Weather" -- which Brown reminded the DTE crowd was finished just up the road at Kid Rock's studio -- and a 10-minute intermissionette after the acoustic set. The ZBB's first major hit, "Chicken Fried," closed the show, it's final verse -- paying tribute to freedom and U.S. military personnel -- playing perfectly for the impending Independence Day celebration.

Some community fireworks could be seen as fans drove home from DTE, but they were hard-pressed to be as dazzling as the explosive performance Brown and his band delivered.

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