You've got to hand it to the guys in the Zac Brown Band — they're nothing if not ambitious. Their latest album, Jekyll + Hyde, finds the Atlanta-based group expanding into territories far outside its country-music tag, with explorations into EDM, bluegrass, big band, and metal. And let's face it: Few bands of any genre could integrate contributions from both Sara Bareilles and Chris Cornell on the same album and make it work.
Reviews for the album have been mostly positive, and it's certainly resonated with fans too. Jekyll + Hyde debuted atop the Billboard charts — the band's third consecutive release to achieve this — and has scored number-one hits on both the country and mainstream rock charts with singles "Homegrown," "Heavy Is the Head," and "Loving You Easy."
"Zac's vision on this one was a bit different than the others," says John Driskell Hopkins, a founding member of the group. "He wants to reach a broader audience." Hopkins says it's a natural evolution for the band, which views itself as a rock act from the South, more than a country act. "While we do listen to and love a lot of different styles of music — country among them — we've never been comfortable in one particular category."
Just as ambitious as the album is the Jekyll + Hyde tour, which wraps in West Palm Beach, though the band is on the road so often, it can be difficult figuring out when one tour ends and another begins. Nine of this tour's dates were at Major League Baseball stadiums, including one at Coors Field in Denver, the first concert ever at that venue.
"The night before we played Fenway," Hopkins says, "we were already in town, and I went to see James Taylor. What a great place to see a show. All the stadiums are like that — they're all beautiful places. I think we'll continue to keep doing them, and I think more baseball stadiums will catch on and get into it."
For the tour's set list, the band is leaning heavily on the new album rather than playing a hits-heavy set. "There's a lot of stuff on this new record that we feel like our crowd is really going to love forever," Hopkins says, "and we want to remind them of those tunes."
To ensure each city gets a unique show, the band keeps a spreadsheet of every show and its song list, making sure to change things up from the last time they were in town. The set includes a number of covers as well, and sometimes the band customizes them to represent the city it's playing in. In New York City, for example, the band played Billy Joel's "Piano Man," while Philadelphia got Boyz II Men, and Boston enjoyed two hits from Aerosmith, whose frontman, Steven Tyler, joined the band onstage. For the Florida dates, however, the band need not change things up much.
"Florida is so close to Atlanta that a lot of us consider it a second home," says Hopkins. "To us, it's kind of like our beach condo. And I'm an FSU grad, so I'm very comfortable there, and I think that our normal show is something that reads very well to Floridians."
Zac Brown Band
With Drake White. 7 p.m. Sunday, November 15, at Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansbury's Way, West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $27.50 to $75.50 plus fees. Call 561-795-8883, or visit ticketmaster.com.
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