If seeing a band live is the only way to test how talented they truly are, Zac Brown Band knocked it out of the park (pun totally intended). But besides proving their skill at Wrigley Field, the country band also proved that they’re…well, not country. They’re so much more.
Sure, Zac Brown Band has been branded as a country group. Between the twanginess and fiddle in “The Wind” and lyrics like, “you know I like my chicken fried/a cold beer on a Friday night/a pair of jeans that fit just right” they sound like a quintessential country band. And with a name like Zac Brown Band and the glorious beards they don, they look like a country band.
But like I said, bands show you what they’re all about when they perform live. And in the case of Zac Brown Band, the proof was in the covers.
I’ve seen Mumford and Sons cover “Come Together” by the Beatles, Train cover “We Are Young” by FUN, FUN cover “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones, etc. But Zac Brown Band proved their talent when they expanded into just about every genre possible.
This “country” group flawlessly covered the classics from the crowd-pleasing “Go Cubs Go” to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”, while their cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” had us wondering if this was the real life or just fantasy.
But possibly the most backwards, and amazing, cover for them to do was Metallica’s “Enter The Sandman” in a mashup of heavy metal and some fierce fiddle.
But it’s no wonder that they’re considered more “southern rock” than “country” by the truest fans, as this isn’t the first time the group has done some genre-hopping. While their best known songs are the most mainstream modern-country sounding ones (“Chicken Fried”, “Toes”, and “Knee Deep”) on their latest album, “Overnight” – featuring Trombone Shorty – sounds like a romantic Big Band blues song from the 80’s. And “Island Song” is clearly reggae-inspired. Not to mention, the freestyle guitar solos that seemed to be a throwback to The Grateful Dead’s improvisational style that made every concert different.
They are a group un-confined by the bars of genre…which is perhaps the not-so-unintentionally-ironic meaning behind then that their latest album title, Uncaged.
In a world of autotune where slappin’ the bass has been replaced by dropping the bass, it’s really nice to know that there are still genuinely talented groups making it into our radios and getting stuck in our heads. And the full-up Wrigley field would agree.
So like I said, Zac Brown Band is not just a mainstream modern country group. They’re true musicians. And from going from a 15 minute blues guitar solo to tearing up some heavy metal while wearing skeleton costumes and top hats (that happened) before diving right back into “Chicken Fried,” they’re an experience that will take you off to never neverland and and will never stop surprising.
(Cover photo courtesy of George Norkus)