Country Music People December 2018 - Page 49

livereviews ZAC BROWN BAND and ALISON KRAUSS at BluesFest The O2, London 27 & 28 October With a disappointing lack of traditionally-minded country artists on the bill at next year’s C2C (apart from Lyle Lovett – sorry, but for me Chris Stapleton is more southern rock than country), it was down to the annual BluesFest multi-day event to provide the type of country music many of us favour – this time around in the form of the Zac Brown Band and Alison Krauss. BluesFest ran from Thursday, October 25th to Sunday, October 28th and headlining on the Saturday night was the Zac Brown Band. I remember reading Duncan’s C2C review a couple of years ago when ZZB headlined and feeling surprised at the inclusion of Metallica’s Enter Sandman in their set. I remember thinking, “They have so many great songs, why on earth would they cover Metallica?!” My hopes that there wouldn’t be a repeat of this travesty (I do love the song when it’s performed by Metallica, mind) were dashed as it was played a few songs in, sandwiched between the catchy Keep Me In Mind and the touching My Old Man. “That’s to keep you on your toes,” announced Zac immediately after singing it. Surely there are many ZBB originals that could have done that? Anyway, pretty much the rest of the show was an absolute delight, although it was nearly 20 minutes late in starting (for which Zac apologised, saying it was due to “technical difficulties”) and a number of their stunning originals – Knee Deep, As She’s Walking Away, Colder Weather, Free – were delivered superbly by the red-hot eight- piece band. Towards the end, Zac announced that they had time for one more. “What would it be?” I wondered. “Sweet Annie? Whatever It Is? Highway 20 Ride? Day That I Die? Goodbye in Her Eyes?” – this group just has a jaw-dropping repertoire. No, it was a cover of the Beastie Boys’ 1994 hit Sabotage! Again, a top tune by the Beasties but why would the Zac Brown Band opt to do it? I just can’t understand it… I even heard people around me express surprise that there was “no Sweet Annie.” The band’s opening act, blues rock singer/songwriter Beth Hart, said of the Zac Brown Band: “They’re the nicest guys and you know they’re gonna kill it.” They did come across as very genuine and they definitely would have “killed it” had they not opted to cover two songs that, for me, had no business being there. No such problem for Alison Krauss, who opened for rock band the Counting Crows on the Sunday, as the cover versions in her set were tried-and-tested tunes from her back catalogue, which suited both her voice and the musical genres for which she’s known and loved: country and bluegrass. These included opening number River In The Rain, Baby, Now That I’ve Found You and Gentle On My Mind – a particular high point. I had waited a long time to see Alison Krauss perform live and, despite the omission of Restless and Simple Love, she didn’t disappoint. Dressed in a long blue flowery dress – and backed as ever by superb vocalists and musicians which included Sidney and Suzanne Cox of the Cox Family – Alison took centre stage in what was an imaginatively laid-out set, with metal benches, bicycles and a street lamp. She expertly trawled through tracks from her – and also Union Station’s – extensive back catalogue (my pick of the bunch, alongside Gentle On My Mind, was the gorgeous The Lucky One) and that voice remained flawless throughout. Alison didn’t say much but did note that it had been a long time since she had performed “on this side of the water.” Hopefully it won’t be long until she’s back again. It would perhaps be better next time, though, if she wasn’t supporting an act like the Counting Crows, as I’m sure some of the people around me who wouldn’t stop talking had only come to see the headliners. Also, in my opinion, there are not many artists who deserve to be higher up on the list than the lady whom the announcer described as “one of the great American voices.” Adrian Peel DECEMBER 2018 - cmp 49