Zac Brown Band Bring Some Laid-Back Vibes to RodeoHouston

Zac Brown of the Zac Brown Band in front of some pretty lights.
Zac Brown of the Zac Brown Band in front of some pretty lights. Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Zac Brown Band
NRG Stadium
March 12, 2K18

There was a long pause before the Zac Brown Band began their set. They were there on stage, in the purple glow of the lights that fire up in between songs during RodeoHouston sets, but they didn’t seem to be in too big a rush to get the show underway. After all the booms of the pre-show fireworks, this pause before the start of the show seemed a little weird and was on the verge of feeling a little too long.

Fast forward to the end of the night and that pause earlier made perfect sense. Fireworks and dramatic music are all part of the countdown to RodeoHouston headliner experience, and while it’s certainly entertaining enough, it really clashes with what the Zac Brown Band is all about. That pause needed to be there so that the fans watching the show could reset their expectations and enjoy the band for who they are and not for what the pomp of the pre-show was selling.

Very few bands live up to the “something for everyone” billing, but Zac Brown Band strikes me as the type that just might. Sure, they don’t have a rap song in their catalog, but even if they did I imagine it would be better than 95 percent of the hick-hop out there in the world today. While there set was a largely laid-back affair, it was never boring, and their sprinkles of Jimmy Buffett here and modern pop there on top of their country pie made the set all the more enjoyable. There’s nothing wrong with staying in first gear when you’ve got songs as strong as “Free” to build your set around.

That’s not to say they never cut loose. “Chicken Fried” brought down the house at the end of the night, but before they got there covers of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” and Van Halen’s “Panama” took the night to some fun places.

Zac Brown himself made good use of the new big stage while not doing it with the cocky swagger of so many other country stars. That’s not to say that he doesn’t do it without confidence, just that the way he carries himself is much more understated, and made for a nice change of pace at RodeoHouston. Truth be told, although the music was top notch, what really won me over was him acknowledging that RodeoHouston, beyond the music, beyond the food, beyond the rides, beyond the competition, is about raising millions for Texas kids, and how cool that is. I can’t think of any other performer that’s brought that up before, although I’m sure they’re out there.

All told, not a bad way to spend the Monday of Spring Break. Yes, things will get a little bit wild as the week goes along, but after a busy two and a third months to start the year, relaxing with Zac Brown and company seemed to suit everyone just fine.

Personal Bias: I’ve had multiple people over the past few years tell me that I’d probably enjoy seeing the Zac Brown Band live even if I don’t like country music. A round of applause from me to them for being right.

The Crowd: 70,319 strong on Monday night, which shows with the right act the Spring Break attendance bump can come any day of the week.

Mutton Bustin’ Update, Day 14:
About as good an “average” day as one can get out of the sheep. Some high scores, a pair low low, a couple of kids getting trampled but no tears when they did the lineup at the end of the night. One kid said he wanted to be a cowboy policeman when he grew up, another said she wanted to be a Mary Kay salesperson. It takes all sorts to ride the sheep.

Random Notebook Dump: So there’s this billboard for a popular brand of beer of which I will not be naming that is on Kirby Street near the Rodeo. I’ve walked past it many times, but I’ve never really looked at it until tonight when my roommate pointed out that the graphic they used for it was so low-res that the “please drink responsibly” tag at the bottom was blurred to the point of uselessness. Wild.
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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia