Reviewed on Wednesday April 1
Almost exactly two years prior to tonight’s proceedings, Zac Brown and co. were performing their first-ever headlining show at Sydney’s Hi-Fi. Sure, they may have literally just crossed the road to the Hordern in the time since then, but figuratively it’s been an extensive journey for the band in that time. They’ve been picking up kudos from Dave Grohl and Chris Cornell along the way, as well as cementing their reputation as one of the better live acts in their immediate genre – maybe even the best.
It’s certainly a strong argument put forward with the band’s live show. With eight people onstage at any given time, there’s a sense of immediacy and urgency to whatever is being played, even if it’s kicking around in ballad territory. Given, playing in a room like the Hordern means that a few of the players – especially percussionist Daniel de los Reyes – are predominantly seen and not heard. The energy carries throughout, however, and a faulty mix only derails proceedings in a minor way. Tonight is a night of loud sing-alongs and rousing choruses, both of which Brown has in spades. As soon as he leans away from the microphone in ‘Toes’, the entire audience knows to proudly announce that their “ass [is] in the sand” Same goes for ‘Chicken Fried’, the title of which goes hand in hand with a loudly sung “cold beer on a Friday night”. It’s all a bit silly, sure, but it’s guaranteed to raise a smile.
The band’s use of covers is at once utterly confusing and wildly entertaining. Four end up in tonight’s set – Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’, Charlie Daniels’ ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia’, Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’. The latter two feel particularly out of place among the cod-reggae of ‘Knee Deep’ or the bluegrass rumble of ‘Whiskey’s Gone’… well, on paper, at least. When they actually kick in, it all makes perfect sense. It sounds great, too. It could well be a greater metaphor for the Zac Brown Band as a whole – it’s all about being in the moment.