Last Night: Zac Brown Band At RodeoHouston

Zac Brown Band Reliant Stadium March 17, 2011

Only the Zac Brown Band could write an upbeat song about falling in love with a woman as she's walking away from you. Sure, we've all been there - falling for someone of the opposite sex who has lost or never had interest in you - but to write a cheerful song about it? That's magic.

It's this kind of ability to surprise those who might otherwise detest country music and enchant even their most fervent fans over and over again that makes the group's performances so satisfying. ZBB's members are vastly talented, and last night at the Rodeo, they didn't pull any punches - every instrument and each vocalist was given the limelight at one time or another as the band delighted 71,590 fans for a solid hour.

"This is a tribute to one of my heroes, right here," Zac Brown said from the stage, as his band began its third song, a faithful and well-executed cover of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Exceptional praise goes to the band's fiddler/violinist, Jimmy De Martini who, from where we were sitting, played flawlessly.

Three or four slower songs followed, but the overall feel of the evening was lighthearted and fun, which is where the Zac Brown Band truly shines. Don't get us wrong; they can write good tearjerkers, but their bread and butter is feel-good music. The faster songs also give the band members more of a chance to show off their skills, too.

"There are some times you have to fight a chicken when you're a man," Brown said a few songs later.

We had absolutely no idea what to make of the statement, nor did we have any idea what kind of song was to follow. Even the guttural cheers and girly screams from the fans around us couldn't have prepared us for what we heard next, which may have been the most country song we've ever heard... if that makes any sense.

The song was campy and cliché but so much fun that even we found ourselves effortlessly humming along by the second chorus. It sounded like Songwriting 101 to our ears, and if we heard all the lyrics right, the song was about chasing a chicken and watching its feathers fly. Believe it or not though, these boys are not from Texas.

Next, Brown dedicated "Free," a song about making the most of current circumstances and keeping one's head up, to the defenders of our country, both overseas and at home. The stage backdrop turned into a slow-waving American flag, and the screens above the staged showed a video of the group performing a concert for our men and women in uniform.

Before ending the night with their biggest hit, "Chicken Fried," ZBB performed a harmony-heavy variation of "America the Beautiful." While we might not have thought so before, it was actually quite an appropriate introduction to a song about the love of everything American, from chicken fried (steak), cold beer on a Friday night to a pair of jeans that fits just right.

God bless it all.

Personal Bias: We'll never, ever get tired of hearing people sing along to their favorite music (as long as their voices aren't piercingly loud), and we heard quite a bit of that last night.

Overheard in the Crowd: "He wants to be a paleontologist... whatever that is."

Random Notebook Dump: Next time you go to the Rodeo, after the fireworks are over but before the stage is lit up, look behind you at the crowd. The glow-in-the-dark toys, open cell phones and camera flashes make for a pretty spectacular sight, too. A dark stadium that seats 70,000 plush lit only by the abovementioned items is pretty cool looking.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Matt is a regular contributor to the Houston Press’ music section. He graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in print journalism and global business. Matt first began writing for the Press as an intern, having accidentally sent his resume to the publication's music editor instead of the news chief. After half a decade of attending concerts and interviewing musicians, he has credited this fortuitous mistake to divine intervention.
Contact: Matthew Keever