The Daily Gamecock

‘Cold beer on a Friday night’: ZBB plays CLA

Zac Brown Band delivers upbeat, energetic performance to packed Colonial Life crowd

A crowd of highly intoxicated country music lovers dressed in cowboy boots, blue jeans and sundresses packed Colonial Life Arena Friday evening to experience a night with Grammy Award winning Zac Brown Band.

While the audience seemed to be made up of mostly middle-aged music lovers, fans from every walk of life were mesmerized by the group’s show that kept them on their feet for over two hours. Many men flirted shamelessly with women half their ages while their wives swayed and screamed — drunk and happy — to every song in the band’s repertoire. Look-a-likes of lead singer and guitarist Zac Brown were also scattered throughout the crowd, sporting thick mountain-man beards and beanie hats.

Brown, a native of small town Georgia, connected effortlessly with the Southern crowd immediately. The group drew deafening cheers from the audience upon entrance. “Hello, Columbia,“ was all Brown had to say to reinvigorate the arena after the atmosphere had calmed down slightly. Their ecstatic cries drowned out anything the artist had planned to say.

The band opened with number one country hit “Keep Me in Mind” to ear piercing screams from the crowd as the big screens showed Brown grinning from ear-to-ear at the reaction.

Brown’s face was full of emotion throughout the show, smiling and laughing during upbeat songs like “Sic ‘em on the Chicken,” expressions of remorse during “Highway 20 Ride” and respect and pride during the group’s rendering of “God Bless the U.S.A”. Fans mimicked Brown’s attitude by waving cell phones and lighters in the air during slower songs and breaking into irrepressible applause as an American flag came across the big screens while the band sang “Free.”

The contagious energy spread rapidly through the arena and left viewers with wide smiles on their faces and boots tapping the floor. In front of the stage young and old couples alike excitedly danced the well-known shag — complete with flips, dips and twirls — to songs that were not always shag appropriate.

When the band moved into the extremely popular “Toes,” Brown might as well have turned off his microphone and let the crowd belt out one of the obvious favorites. Much to the group’s delight it was next to impossible to hear anything over the audience’s inebriated, off-key singing.

Known for covering some of the most famous songs from artists who inspire the group, Zac Brown Band’s renditions of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” Pure Prairie League’s “Amie” and Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” were well received, but it wasn’t until fiddler Jimmy De Martini sawed off the opening chords of Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” that the arena truly thundered with shouts and applause of approval.

De Martini’s performance during that particular song was impressive to say the least and the older crowd sang along to his flying fingers and bow to create a roar that left chests vibrating and participants gasping for breath.

The band broke several times to advocate for Camp Southern Ground, a camp founded in Georgia for children with autism, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, Tourette’s Syndrome and Asperger’s Syndrome. Brown donated 500-acres in Fayette County, Georgia which will soon be the home of the state-of-the-art facility that will help rehabilitate children with many different kinds of neurobehavioral and learning disabilities.

After the brief musical break the band came back strong with “No Hurry” — a song that the crowd related easily to and provoked them to hurling articles of clothing and personal paraphernalia onto the stage. Brown and his crew continued smiling, approaching and interacting with the crowd among the chaotic yells.

In addition to its more well known tunes, the band also played two songs titled “Wind” and “Jump On In,” off its new album which is scheduled to be released this summer. Before allowing the audience to hear “Jump On In,” Brown taught part of the main chorus to the audience telling them, “I’m going to need y’all to sing on this one.” The crowd was pleased to oblige.

Zac Brown Band brought their Columbia show to a close with two of their most popular songs, “Colder Weather” and “Chicken Fried.” The group drew both songs out, adding guitar and fiddle solos to the original versions in order to prolong the ending that the crowd was so dreading. During the final moments of “Chicken Fried,” the stage crew ran out to Brown and strapped a harness on him; moments later he was soaring over the arena — still playing his guitar — as the crowd went absolutely wild.