Reviewed by Roger Sharman: Returning to London for the first time since C2C 2017, it’s fair to say that everybody in attendance was eagerly awaiting Saturday nights show at the 2018 Blues Fest. Beth Hart warmed the crowd up nicely with her brand of Blues\|Rock with a hint of Jazz thrown in, although there was no doubt who the audience had come to see on this chilly Saturday night in south east London. After a longer than normal interlude between acts (later explained to be due to technical difficulties), Zac and the boys took no time in getting the party started, whipping the crowd into a frenzy straight away with their hoedown ‘Whiskeys Gone’ followed by their reggae infused roots track ‘Knee deep’ from 2010s ‘You Get What You Give’ album. Just into the third track of the night – ‘As She’s Walking Away’ the whole crowd was on its feet, totally immersed in the occasion. Keeping the crowd with them for every second, they launched into the first cover of the night, Kings of Leon’s ‘Use Somebody’, the band demonstrated their ability to switch between genres with sublime ease, going from Country, to Rock, to Reggae with ‘Keep Me in Mind’ & ‘Island Song’ back to Rock with Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’, which featured the rasping, snarling vocals of John Driskell Hopkins. It was time for the audience to catch its breath as the tempo dropped for ‘My Old Man’. But, it was only a momentary respite as the audience erupted for Hopkins second vocal outing of the evening, ‘Its Not Ok’, which saw the audience dancing in the aisles, some on their seats, in fact anywhere there was space to move. It is one of those songs that’s impossible to sit still through. Calypso percussion kicked in and Caribbean images of sun, sea and sand flashed up on the big screen, accompanying ‘Jump Right In’. We were transported right back to the summer in that three and a half minutes, which was most welcome on one of the chilliest nights of the year. The lights went down in the arena, a snowy dotted central line appeared on the big screens as the opening bars of ‘Colder Weather’ rung out, sending chills down the spines of the adoring masses. This band was born to make music together it’s apparent at this very moment in time and the audience was lapping up every single second like their lives depended on it. A gorgeous rendition of ‘Toes’ instantly took us back to the beach and a warm, happy place. This led directly in to the heavily blues laden cover of The Allman Brothers ‘Whipping Post’, Clay Cook assuming the vocals for this ten minute plus psychedelic space jam. A killer version of my favourite Zac song ‘Free/Into the Mystic’ made the evening complete for me. They could have played a Jedward song next and I really wouldn’t have given a damn, they would have carried it off with consummate ease anyway. The crowd roared with approval as ‘Chicken Fried’ had the crowd screaming at the top of its collective voice once again. In that moment we were transported to Zac’s backyard for some barbeque & beer, all to be washed down with the finest ‘Homegrown’ you’ve ever sampled. Zac Brown Band certainly know how to host a party! This was demonstrated by their encore, Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’ which unexpected, but not unwelcome. Jimmy Di Martini showed off his rapping ability and the band proved that they could indeed play absolutely anything. Leaving the arena at the end of the show, I heard rumours of displeasure at the late repricing of tickets to fill the place up, & also at the length of time played (an hour & twenty minutes). For a band with the amount of songs they have in their back catalogue, it did surprise me that they had thrown in as many covers as they did. If you include ‘Into the Mystic’ that’s four in seventeen songs, so quite a high proportion, but that’s what Zac Brown band does, and I, for one, was not disappointed by that. What I’m sure everyone would agree with me is that we want more Zac Brown Band and we want it soon!
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