April 3, 2008
By Kim Burdges
Being the opening act for a sold out headliner can be a tough place to be, but the Zac Brown Band’s electric performance Thursday night at the Fox Theatre proved that some of those tickets might have been bought just for them. Blending rock, country, folk, and soul, Brown and his band gave an engaging showcase of pure musical talent.
As the leader of the band, Atlanta native Brown certainly displayed his clear, powerful vocals and guitar talent, but also he let his gifted band mates (Jimmy de Martini- fiddle, vocals; John Hopkins- bass, vocals; Coy Bowles- guitar, organ; Chris Fryar- drums) shine in their own solos through out the set. Hopkins gave an especially entertaining vocal performance reminiscent of Charlie Daniels on “Its Not Ok.”
While the band’s laid-back, up-tempo tracks like “Toes” and “Whatever It Takes” invoke comparisons to Jimmy Buffett, James Taylor, and the Allman Brothers, the two stand-out performances of the set were slower emotional tracks, which also showed the band’s ability to collaborate with other talented players. Atlanta’s own Aslyn lent her voice and piano to the duet “Drive,” and it was an absolutely stellar performance of two such passionate souls: her and Brown. Brown and his band continued to show their soul on the powerful “Free,” while being accompanied by local saxophonists (Jordan Shalhoup and Dave Englehard) as well as Aslyn. The band even used portions of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” as a bridge in “Free”- further transporting their audience to a place of liberation.
The band ended the set with a crowd favorite and Brown standard “Chicken Fried”. By the end of the song fans new and old were shouting the lyrics and on their feet cheering the band members off the stage with the ultimate thank you: a standing ovation.