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Zac Brown Band Closes Out Rodeo in Fine Form

Zac Brown Band Closes Out Rodeo in Fine Form
Photo by Jack Gorman
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Zac Brown Band
NRG Stadium
March 26, 2017

Coincidentally enough, I became a Zac Brown Band fan two years ago during their set at RodeoHouston. I was familiar with the band’s biggest hits – tunes like “Chicken Fried” and “Colder Weather” – but had never really explored their catalog or had much interest in doing so. But after they wowed a sold-out crowd that night at NRG Stadium, I tore through every ZBB album in succession and was instantly hooked.

So it came as little surprise that ZBB closed out RodeoHouston with a great set on Sunday night before a jam-packed crowd of more than 70,000 fans. Zac Brown and his stable of bandmates took the stage around 6:45 and immediately jumped into “Homegrown.” From there, the band transitioned into a pair of fun, uptempo tracks – “Knee Deep” and “As She’s Walking Away.”

The second-best highlight of the night (we’ll get to the best in a bit) came when ZBB busted out “Sweet Annie.” The song – in my opinion the band’s best single – tells the tale of life on the road, of love, loss and regret. It’s also catchy as hell, which is why most of the crowd at NRG sang along in unison.

Zac Brown Band Closes Out Rodeo in Fine Form (2)
Photo by Jack Gorman

The bearded, vested and hat-adorned Brown wasn’t quite as chatty as usual, though that may have had to do with the fact that the band went on a little late and was limited to a set that lasted barely an hour. Content to let the music do more of the talking, Brown and crew rolled through a bevy of hit singles. From “Colder Weather” to “Toes,” ZBB proved why they’re an ideal rodeo-closing outfit – the band has more than enough singles to fill a rodeo set list.

Mixed in with the old was the new, including a pair of tracks from the band’s upcoming release, Welcome Home. Those were the band’s two lead singles – “My Old Man” and “Real Thing” – the former of which likely had more than a few folks at RodeoHouston on Sunday night calling their dads immediately after the show to express their love (yep, it’s that kinda song).

Zac Brown Band Closes Out Rodeo in Fine Form (3)
Photo by Jack Gorman

But that’s what ZBB does so well. Their songs make people feel. Whether it’s a track like “Toes,” which instantly transports you to the beach with an umbrella drink in your hand, or “Colder Weather,” which is one hell of a listen for anyone who’s ever gone through a tough breakup, ZBB’s popularity is rooted in its ability to craft a diverse array of songs for a diverse array of fans. On Sunday night, that even included a cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which was a hit for older folk in the house (or anyone who likes the cinematic version of Wayne’s World).

The highlight of the evening, however, came immediately after that cover, when ZBB closed their hourlong, 13-song set with their most popular track, “Chicken Fried.” That included a military service member onstage in full salute, which drew a well-deserved ovation from the crowd. It was a fitting end to a fitting show that provided a stellar end to yet another successful RodeoHouston season.

Personal Bias: I’m a single dad, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I was a bit heartbroken that ZBB held “Highway 20 Ride” from their set list on Sunday night. It may not be their best song, but for me, it’s by far the most personal.

Zac Brown Band Closes Out Rodeo in Fine Form (4)
Photo by Jack Gorman

Random Notebook Dump: My buddy Jared is a dead ringer for Zac Brown…If I saw Zac Brown at the mall and he wasn’t wearing his trademark hat, I probably wouldn’t even recognize him…I don’t like ZBB’s new stuff quite as much as their older stuff, but hearing it live, I appreciate it quite a bit more…Zac Brown rocks one awesome beard.

Mutton Bustin’ Report: Props to little Raul Cortez for winning the Mutton Bustin’ Battle of Champions, whereupon all 19 winners from this year’s rodeo gathered for one last go-round. Raul wasn’t much for a postgame interview, so maybe he’s the Marshawn Lynch of Mutton Bustin’ – lets his play do the talking.

SET LIST
Homegrown
Knee Deep
As She’s Walking Away
Sweet Annie
Tomorrow Never Comes
Keep Me in Mind
My Old Man
Beautiful Drug
Real Thing
Colder Weather
Toes
Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen cover)
Chicken Fried

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