The Zac Brown performs at Fenway Park. Credit: @__ReGINAGeorge_ via Twitter
If you're headed to see the Zac Brown Band at Fenway Park tonight, get ready to be surprised - and consider this your spoiler alert.
The 7-member country group played a stunning three hour set that had the sell out crowd dancing in the aisles, many seemingly in awe that the show could maintain its excellence for that long.
ZBB greeted Boston with an energetic cover of Dropkick Murphy's "Shipping up to Boston," which revealed a significantly slimmed down Zac Brown, who had swapped his signature knit beanie for a top hat. It was the first of a more than a half dozen covers that would not disappoint. Among them were "Piano Man" by Billy Joel, who Brown had performed with the previous night when Joel played Fenway, David Allen Coe's "You Never Call Me By My Name," and the Outlaws' "Freeborn Man," for which they changed the lyrics to "I got a lady in Massachusetts."
The band's original tunes were played to perfection, with crowd favorites "Toes" "Knee Deep" and "Chicken Fried" resulting in lots of beer spillage as fans raised their cups high, some even do-si-do-ing in any open space they could find.
The highlight of the evening was clearly the surprise appearance of the Doobie Brothers, who harmonized beautifully with ZBB for the Brothers' hit "Black Water." Judging from the crowd's reaction, Boston was more than willing to welcome their "funky Dixieland" for the evening.
Fans were equally as pleased to slow it down with the band's ballads, "Sweet Annie," "Whatever It Is," "Colder Weather" and "Highway 20 Ride," a moving song about a divorced father's efforts to maintain a long-distance relationship with his son.
Although the band continuously left it all on the stage for song after song after song, Brown was still able to interact with the crowd, first making a lengthy trip through the audience, high-fiving fans during "Keep Me in Mind," then sending dozens of t-shirts flying into the crowd using an customized air gun and, finally, pulling a boy named Matthew, no older than 10, onto the stage to receive a guitar signed by the front man himself. He also thanked fans for their ticket purchase, explaining that $1 from each ticket would be donated to Camp Southern Ground, a retreat the group is building for children with developmental delays, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Brown also told the crowd of his special connection to Fenway, which he said he visited when he was 12-years-old with a friend's father.
"I sat way up in the nosebleeds," he said. "And now, here I am on the field with all of you."
As the show neared its end, it was hard to imagine what songs could be left for an encore performance, and that's when fans were treated to more amazing cover songs. As the curtain rose for the band's return, fans were actually met with band members dressed as glow-in-the-dark skeletons, masks and all, rocking out to "Day for the Dead," which they originally performed with Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl at the 2013 Country Music Awards.
Then came a mind-blowing cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," followed by Charlie Daniels' Band's "Devil went down to Georgia," which made the crowd go berserk.
In hindsight, maybe the show was not so surprising after all. For a band this good, a three-hour extravaganza is just another day at the park.