Zac Brown Band at Target Center, 11/10/12
Zac Brown Band
Target Center, Minneapolis
Saturday, November 10, 2012
No seriously. See also: Ten reasons why Zac Brown Band will never win us over. Never! Read that, and then you'll appreciate why writing this review of Zac Brown Band's Saturday night Target Center performance is gonna be kiiiiiiinda tough because, well, their bass player read that list that we posted on Friday. And then kinda sent us an e-mail asking if we'd like a pair of tickets to the show. "The downside," he offered, "is that we might win you over."
So maybe I'm writing this review with an audience of one in mind, ZBB bassist John Driskell Hopkins, as if for his own amusement. Or perhaps for the redemption of his band -- his band I've so cattily hated on. Or perhaps for my own redemption, as someone who writes catty shit online and then gets called out on it. Or if for none of that, at least in thanks to John for personally hooking us up with some pretty sweet seats to his sold-out show.
But on the other hand, I've got my journalistic (HA!) integrity (HA! HA! HA!) to think of! What to do, what to do...
I will say this: after hearing from Hopkins, I really hoped his band would win me over. Because how do you rip apart a dude who's been charming enough to reach out to his critic in the entirely friendly, good-natured way that he did?
Lucky for me, it turned out Hopkins was right. While I won't count myself a superfan, two songs into their two-hour performance and well, unless I'm to belabor a man's beanie, I realized there wasn't a word I could say to bring these dudes down a peg. It was immediately evident on Saturday that this band brings it. What, precisely, do they bring? Well, in addition to a beanie, a T-shirt cannon, and a dude who whittles on stage (yes - Arrested Development had a "spiritual advisor" on their stage in the '90s, and ZBB today has its own whittler), in addition to all these things, Zac Brown Band brings a palpable energy, as well as commendable positivity, sincerity and heart to their live performance. They also bring a band that can, member-for-member, play the hell out of its instruments, from fiddle to whittle to voice.
I say this not to amuse John Driskell Hopkins, not to redeem his band or myself or to thank him for the great seats (but thanks, by the way!). I say this as someone who walked into the show crabby as all hell. Crabby that the man to my left was wearing neatly-pressed fashion "Western" jeans with just-so distressing on the pockets and perfectly frayed fringe at the ankles dangling over seriously immaculate black cowboy boots. Crabby at the drunk lady behind him who would not stop screaming to her friend down the row, "SO WHAT if I think Taylor Hicks is hot! Is that so bad?!?" Crabby that every single bartender I approached in the lobby put tonic water in my drink when I'd requested soda (why?). Crabby that I had to be downtown on a Saturday night. Crabby that beanies outnumbered cowboy hats in the audience. Crabby that I was in an arena show, because hate is not a strong enough word to convey my feelings about arena shows. Try instead "herpes." "Tax audits." "Wet socks." "Bedbugs." I seriously herpes tax audit arena shows. They're so bad, that I wet sock bedbug them. Never liked 'em.
And yet, two songs in and crabby ol' me found herself having a really good time. I texted my ZBB superfan mom to tell her that sitting through this feel-good, bouncy-happy-music concert, I found that I was the happiest I'd been in weeks.
I say with all honesty and sincerity that on Saturday night, Zac Brown Band sounded better than any other band I've ever heard in one of our cities' two
herped tax audited wet socked bedbugged hated arenas, from Tool (I won't admit how many times), to Rod Stewart, to Red Hot Chili Peppers. (The latter was the week I got my first -- ahem, tribal -- tattoo back in the late '90s, and now I'm just begging to be made fun of, so go right ahead.) From the hits, to cuts off their new (and forthcoming) albums, to a handful of covers, the band's sound was huge, and their presence filled that space from front row to cheap seats.
That said and all fawning aside, I gotta keep my journalistic (hiccup) integrity (burp fart) intact here and add this: Zac Brown Band, y'all are kinda a bunch of cheeseballs. And bless you for it. The band's lyrics do come across as a bit cheesy when not downright hackneyed. But then do not the lyrics to all my favorite songs from wayback come across about the same? Have you ever listened to the lyrics to "Roll On Eighteen Wheeler?" Right? They're bad, oh so bad, and yet so good. It's this, not esoteric metaphor, that I suppose makes for a popular song. And I'll concede that they know how to write a damned catchy tune, even if it is your run-of-the-mill "Things Southern Folks Like" list song. (See here: "Chicken Fried." See also: Eric Church's "Love Your Love.")
And the biggest surprise of the night? I even liked it when they covered -- get this -- a Nirvana song. Okay, perhaps you, the reader, have written this review off entirely having heard this confession, and that's fair, but really. If these guys can do an unapologetic barnburner of a cover of "All Apologies," well... all my own for doubting you, my friends. Who pulls that off? It was moody, introspective, powerful, and somehow not contrived. It happened. Nice work guys; that was probably the least dumb Nirvana cover I've heard this side of the Melvins and Leif Garrett covering "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and that only worked because the Melvins and Leif Garrett covering "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is funny. There's a definite trend in pop-rock country dudes who are in their 30s and get a kick out of covering the alt-rock/grunge of their teens, and this is the first time hearing it has not made me go completely batshit. I was stunned.
I don't know what's come over me. All I know is whatever Zac Brown Band was sellin', that arena was buyin' -- no surprise -- but the biggest shocker was that I'd buy it, too.
Critic's Bias: It worked for Ronnie Dunn. It worked for Zac Brown Band. I can't wait to write a blog about how terribly awful and no good I think Paul McCartney is, and wouldn't he just maybe like to invite me to his English castle to, I dunno, give him another chance?
The Crowd: Zac Brown kept the between song banter to a minimum, but when he yelled a shout-out to Polaris (???), no one in this crowd batted an eye. I don't know what to make of this. But yeah, I suppose it was kind of a Polaris crowd. Sure.
Overheard In The Crowd: "My first impression? That is the most redneck auxiliary percussion guy I've ever seen."
Random Observation: The fiddle player was chuckin' T-shirts farther into the seats using just his arm than Zac Brown was using his t-shirt cannon. Seriously, all the way up to the nosebleed section.
"Keep Me In MInd"
Joe Cocker interlude! (Yeah, it didn't make sense but am I going to complain about hearing a man with a pretty voice sing "You Are So Beautiful"? No way.)
"I Play the Road"
"Goodbye in Her Eyes"
"As She's Walking Away"
"Can't You See" (sans flute, WTF?)
"The Problem with Freedom" (Levi Lowrey)
"Devil Went Down to Georgia"
"Jump Right In"
"Highway 20 Ride"
"Ain't Life Grand"
"The Song Meat Loaf Slaughtered at That Mitt Romney Rally in Ohio" (They didn't call it that, but it would've earned them even more points with me if they had)
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