At the start of his band’s sold-out Friday night show, Zac Brown said it was a perfect night.
The weather wasn’t quite perfect – although a breeze helped blow away the day’s humidity – but the Zac Brown Band turned out to be the perfect band to play at the Minnesota State Fair.
Brown, 44, began his career singing country and pop covers in bars and learned a lot about how to entertain an audience in the process. As always, the band’s show on Friday offered a little something for everyone, with a clever mix of covers and Zac Brown Band originals, many of which sound familiar the first time you hear them. It’s hard not to fall for Brown’s laid-back charm.
After a rousing and moving set by Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Brown walked on stage in front of 13,185 delighted fans and delivered two of ZBB’s many hits, “Keep Me in Mind” and “Toes.” He followed with the first cover of the night, Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody,” which sounded better than the original.
From there, Brown and company performed what sounded like a ’70s Top 40 radio station, from the soft rock of “Loving You Easy” to the calypso soul of “Jump Right In” to their everlasting interpretation. Charlie Daniels Band epic “The Devil Has Come Down to Georgia.
While Brown remained a fixture, he made some stylistic detours into dance and electronic music in the late ’10s that country radio ignored. His seventh album, “The Comeback”, returned to the sound that made him famous. On Friday night, he played the record’s pair of singles, “Same Boat” and “Out in the Middle,” a darker number with Lindsey Buckingham-esque guitar.
Speaking of Buckingham, Brown introduced the band’s newest member, singer/songwriter Caroline Jones, and let her handle a superb cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Big Love” that stripped down the slick production and injected it with southern rock/gospel drama. Great stuff.
Jones’ sassy number “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” also turned it into a medley with some really big hitters: Alabama’s “Dixieland Delight,” Randy Travis and Dolly’s “Forever and Ever, Amen.” Parton “9 to 5.” Turns out the Zac Brown Band really benefits from having a strong woman on stage with all the beefy, bearded dudes.
Skipping an encore, Brown finished with the Eagles’ “Take it to the Limit”, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the band’s “Chicken Fried” and “Homegrown”. Really, only complaint is that the 90 minute running time felt like a party that ended too soon.