REVIEW: Zac Brown Band – Live At C2C 2017, London

Zac Brown Band closed the weekend back in 2014 at the second C2C Festival…and they blew it. Hard luck for those of us that went there expecting to hear the likes of ‘As She’s Walking Away’, ‘Knee Deep’ and ‘Sweet Annie’. What we actually got was a 10 minute-long screaming electric guitar solo on ‘Who Knows’, an unbelievably heavy cover of ‘Enter Sandman’ by Metallica (yes, Metallica, at a country festival) and the omission of countless ZBB classics. People walked out in their droves mid-way through the set. Not a good night for the guys; a total misjudgement and a wasted opportunity.

This time around, it was a whole different story. Zac made a very intriguing statement in the pre-show press conference – “It’s exciting coming here having to prove ourselves again”. Did somebody have a word after the last appearance? I knew that something would be done to the set list this time to rectify the issue, but I always fear that ZBB are still going to go off on one of their tangents. I sat there waiting for ‘Heavy Is The Head’, ‘Uncaged’, ‘Who Knows’…but they never came. This time, they totally catered for the country-loving audience and gave us a thrilling 2 hour show full of the hits and fan favourites, and it turned out to be the best C2C show in history. Our guys were back.

When the first 3 songs are ‘Homegrown’, ‘As She’s Walking Away’ and ‘Whiskey’s Gone’, you know you’re in for one hell of a night. Zac had the crowd wrapped around his little finger from the moment he walked on stage. This is the Zac Brown Band we all know and love; their greatest hits are on another level to most, and all they had to do was keep it simple. Just play what everybody wanted to hear. It seemed like hit after hit, with the gorgeous ‘Goodbye In Her Eyes’, soon followed by the likes of ‘Toes’, ‘Sweet Annie’ and ‘Loving You Easy’. I might have had my ass in the sand but NEVER in the seat, that’s for sure.

The stand-out moment was their cover of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. If, like us, you went to their Wembley Arena show, you will have seen this before, but it never gets old. I would go as far as to say they are the only band in the world that could pull this off so flawlessly. It’s absolutely identical to the original; it’s just missing Freddie’s voice (although Zac doesn’t do too badly!). I have said for many years that ZBB are the most talented group of musicians on the planet, and if you need any proof, go and check out this cover on YouTube. It’s mind-blowing.

Marty Stuart was brought back out onto the stage for ‘Keep Me In Mind’ after his own utterly brilliant performance earlier that night. His command of a guitar is astonishing and he adapted to the track seamlessly. You’d think they’d rehearsed it for weeks. This was followed by a brand new track, ‘Real Thing’, which was premiered on BBC Radio 2 Country and is another stellar addition to the ZBB catalogue of classics. We were also treated to a spine-tingling performance of their new single ‘My Old Man’, which Zac told us was “difficult to sing sometimes”. You could have heard a pin drop in the arena, and Jimmy’s sublime violin instrumental brought a tear to my eye. If this is a sign of what’s to come from the new album, it sounds like they’ve smashed it right out of the park.

After a brilliant rendition of The Who’s ‘Baba O’Reily’ which of course played right into the hands of the British crowd, Zac’s US tour buddy Drake White was invited onto the stage for a duet on ‘Free’, which morphed into the familiar cover of ‘Into The Mystic’. ‘Free’ is the song that got me hooked on country music and will always be a special song to me; always a highlight of any Zac show. ‘Day That I Die’ followed, a personal favourite album track from the ‘Uncaged’ project which was a huge surprise and had the whole arena singing along – “you can find me in my home, guitar in my hand”

After ‘Colder Weather’ and ‘Jump Right In’ (could the set list get much better than this?), the band returned for their encore. Everyone anticipated ‘Chicken Fried’ but it was actually ‘Beautiful Drug’ that came next. Although it’s not a favourite of mine, it’s an awesome live track that had parts of the audience bouncing up and down to the nightclub-influenced, bass-heavy melody. But the moment we were all waiting for soon came around; that acoustic guitar introduction requires no description. The decibel meter reached an all-time festival high. Hearing 20,000 people bellowing “cold beer on a Friday night” at the top of their lungs was a truly euphoric moment and is the stand-out memory from this year’s festival.

Walking out of the arena, I’ve never experienced an atmosphere quite like it. Everybody had huge smiles on their faces, people were high-fiving and hugging each other. What a buzz. How must the band have been feeling walking off that stage?! This was the ultimate definition of ‘nailing it’. It was the best 90 minutes of my life, and that’s no exaggeration.

Dan Wharton

Set List:
Homegrown
As She’s Walking Away
Whiskey’s Gone
Goodbye In Her Eyes
The Devil Went Down To Georgia
My Old Man
Toes
Sweet Annie
Bohemian Rhapsody
Keep Me In Mind
Real Thing
Loving You Easy
Baba O’Riley
Free/Into The Mystic
Day That I Die
Tomorrow Never Comes
Colder Weather
Jump Right In
Beautiful Drug
Chicken Fried