With an intensity far outdistancing any other country performer and many rock acts, the Zac Brown Band riled up a sellout audience of 10,500 Friday night at the i wireless Center, Moline.
With Brown leading the seven-piece band, each of whom had jaw-dropping individual musical talents, the crowd spent the night in a fist-pumping, singalong, frenzied night.
Some of that frenzy spilled out into the audience during guitarist Clay Cook’s solo, leading to an altercation and several edgy moments for those in the crowd. After an onstage admonishment from Brown, including a threat to stop the show then and there, all of the attention was back on the band.
With 22 or so songs that went past the scheduled two-hour time frame, the energy from the band was dominant from the opening notes of its hit “Keep Me in Mind” to the applause after the final notes of “Chicken Fried,” the song that put the ZBB on the map, at the conclusion. Even comparative slower songs from the group, such as its hits “Highway 20 Ride,” “Free” and “Colder Weather” felt like they had more muscle behind them than the radio single versions.
The band members, several of whom play multiple instruments, were just as energetic when they weren’t in the spotlight, running around like the Keystone Kops while a bandmate had attention in the center stage.
Even in the band’s acoustic set, where they moved to the middle of the runway and sat on wooden crates, 10-gallon buckets and end tables, there was only the slightest hint of mellowness. That set ended with a cover of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” which demonstrated that loud, forceful music can come from an acoustic band. A cover of “Isn’t She Lovely?” (the second Stevie Wonder remake in two days, after Billy Currington’s at the Mississippi Valley Fair on Thursday) bookended a redux of “Neon” by John Mayer (Cook’s music college roommate).
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The band closed its regular set with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” with more fire than even the Charlie Daniels Band at its heyday.
In one of the few slow-paced moments, the band led the crowd in a touching version of “America the Beautiful,” before concluding with “Chicken Fried.”
With a generous portion of cuts from its first three albums, but without the ZBB hit “Whatever It Is,” the band maintained a fistlike grip on the audience throughout the night. Let’s hope it’s the first of many trips to the Q-C for the ZBB.
One of the opening acts, singer Sonia Leigh, bowed out of the i wireless Center date and the other, Nic Cowan, filled an entire hour. Both are signed to Brown’s Southern Ground Records label. Cowan’s band would be a better fit for a nightclub at this stage but its sound, similar to Neil Young and The Doors on some extremes, resonated with some in the audience.