DARIEN CENTER – Zac Brown Band plucks songs from multiple sources for its concert playlists: its own extensive opus, Country-Western forebears, and rock and roll (classic as well as contemporary). Its lively Sunday night show at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center – two sets with a snappy, five-minute intermission – kept all fans on their toes as it swung from country to blues to rock.
And speaking of toes, Zac Brown Band did one of its most popular and rollicking party anthems penned to date, "Toes," just three songs in. In the pantheon of all shimmering summertime tunes, "Toes" not only rhymes "favor" with "Jager," but features the picturesque refrain "I got my toes in the water, a-- in the sand."
During said refrain Brown quickly realized that the fans before him could overpower him and band not only within the refrain, but for the rest of the song. And he beamed as they did so.
[GALLERY: Smiles at Zac Brown Band at Darien Lake]
Out on its "Welcome Home Tour" (also the title of its 2017 release), the band's set featured several tunes with wistful words about family, love and loss. Introducing the song "2 Places at 1 Time," Brown would say it's "the most personal song I've ever written."
The stage was a smart, tiered design, allowing the audience to see individual band members more clearly than a flat stage without relying solely on closeup shots on the video monitors onstage. These steps also allowed for sitting when performing and easy access to instruments waiting onstage, adding to a low-key, hootenanny vibe.
On five layered screens mostly literal visuals of lyrics were shown: a song of lost love ("Goodbye in Her Eyes") was translated into flowing, unmoored particles.
Two supreme moments came in two very different rock covers/devotions: Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody." Both were note-perfect, eliciting intensive sing-alongs. Pianist Coy Bowles clearly enjoyed playing the Queen classic. These songs freed up Brown from his various guitars and he moved about, shaking hands of fans from the stage.
[GALLERY: Zac Brown Band at Darien Lake]
Several songs put a spotlight on singer-songwriter Darrell Scott, who opened for the band.
"Darrell is one of my favorite artists in the whole world, he's kind of like Yoda," Brown said. Scott played amid the band, harmonizing with Brown on "It's a Great Day to Be Alive," a gorgeous moment.
In his opening slot – the middle one – Scott was allotted a short 30 minutes. His set began with him solo, then joined by two musicians, and then a few more, including Zac Brown. Upon seeing Brown, the still-arriving crowd went wild. Scott's set wrapped with a medley that culminated into The Band's "Up on Cripple Creek."
After that final tune, a huge Zac Brown Band banner was lowered for an ultra-short break, just long enough for several fans to make some selfies with that as backdrop.
Opening up the whole shebang was rising pop country star Caroline Jones, country by way of Connecticut. She also began solo before adding a few fellow musicians on bass and cajón (drum box). She began with The Byrds' "Old Blue" and then played three of her originals, including her hit "Tough Guys," the tune with the most ample amounts of twang and sass.
Sunday night in Darien Lake Performing Arts Center