On the radio, the Zac Brown Band comes across solid if underwhelming. See them live, however, and they will blow your mind, which is exactly what they did last Friday at the Bowl. Although categorized as a country band, the group is more an amalgamation of genres. Dressed in jeans and T-shirts—and no cowboy hats—frontman Zac Brown and his mates deftly meandered between country, rock, and jam-bandy solos.
Each member of the band—which consists of Brown (lead vocals, guitar), Jimmy De Martini (fiddle, vocals), John Driskell Hopkins (bass guitar, vocals), Coy Bowles (guitar, keyboards), Chris Fryar (drums), and Clay Cook (guitar, keyboards, mandolin, steel guitar, vocals)—is a nimble multi-instrumentalist. And while the group has some winning original songs (“Colder Weather,” “Toes,” “Chicken Fried”), they shined on covers, such as Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”
Zac Brown Band at the Santa Barbara Bowl
Each band member had their moment in the spotlight, performing killer solos that stretched songs into the 10-minute range. Large video screens behind the group allowed for close-ups of the fancy fretwork. Highlights included “Free,” with Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” interwoven to great effect, a rock ’n’ roll version of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” and Ray LaMontagne’s haunting “Jolene.”
At one point during the two-and-a-half-hour-long concert, Brown said “I hope you all are as entertained as we are this evening.” The crowd’s response? Absolutely.