Review of ZBB's San Francisco Concert in the San Francisco Chronicle!A little bit of country came to Fort Mason on Saturday, much to the delight of Bay Area fans of the genre who savored the opportunity to attend a good old-fashioned hoedown complete with a barbecue cook-off, line dancing and plenty of cold beer.
Lost in a sea of guys wearing cowboy hats and gals wearing cutoff jeans, you could almost fool yourself into thinking you were in Texas were it not for the fog that, mercifully, stayed mostly offshore, and the backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The day belonged to headliners the Zac Brown Band, whose first major-label release, "The Foundation," has spawned five hit singles and not only established the group as one of the top acts in country music but also earned it a Grammy for best new artist.
Brown's country roots are clear in his songwriting, but the band covers a wide range of styles. His six-piece group is solid and seasoned from years on the road, hardly a "new artist." Brown himself is the most interesting player in the band, applying his classical guitar training to country and rock most effectively on a nylon-string acoustic instrument.
Comparisons to Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney are apt in songs like "Toes," which was barely audible over the crowd who joined in singing every word, and "Where the Boat Leaves From," which featured a Grateful Dead-style segue into Bob Marley's "One Love."
Brown's Southern rock roots show on songs like "Free," which morphed into a cover of Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic," and in "Highway 20 Ride," Brown's most emotionally mature effort, in which the lyrics convey the thoughts of a divorced father during his biweekly drive to see his son.
"Whatever It Is," again overpowered by the enthusiasm of the audience, has a soft rock and folk feel in which Brown's smooth clear vocals and phrasing, as well as his finger-style guitar, are reminiscent of James Taylor.