The Zac Brown Band played a free Pandora Live concert at the Tabernacle before Super Bowl 53 on Jan. 31, 2019.
Photo: Ryan Fleisher
Photo: Ryan Fleisher

Super Bowl 53: Zac Brown Band gets an assist from Dave Grohl at Pandora concert at the Tabernacle

You know you’ve got something special when even Dave Grohl bows to you onstage.

The Foo Fighters frontman and longtime friend of the Zac Brown Band joined his old pals Thursday night at the close of their 75-minute Tabernacle performance for one of ZBB’s patented covers, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”

»»PHOTOS: Check out our gallery of photos from the Zac Brown Band show

While Grohl has the ideal hair and growly bellow to pull off the metal yowler, we’re still giving the edge to ZBB’s John Driskell Hopkins, who has perfected the band’s version over the years.

But still, having Grohl – who will perform with the Foos at the DirecTV Super Saturday Night concert in their specially constructed venue near Atlantic Station – engage in a “we’re not worthy” maneuver in front of 2,500 fans is a pretty cool way to end a set.

Zac Brown was all smiles during the Pandora Live concert at the Tabernacle on Jan. 31, 2019, a pre-Super Bowl performance.
Photo: Ryan Fleisher

Prior to the night’s guest, Brown and his musically muscular crew – multi-instrumentalist Hopkins, guitarists/keyboardists Coy Bowles and Clay Cook, drummer Chris Fryar, bassist Matt Mangano, fiddler Jimmy De Martini and percussionist Daniel de los Reyes – effortlessly rolled through a set that concentrated on the biggest songs of their vast catalog and a handful of other covers.

That the show was free, a gift from sponsor Pandora for fans who RSVP’d and endured a snaking line to enter, made the concert even more gratifying. The Zac Brown Band regularly sells out stadiums and amphitheaters, so the opportunity to see them in such an intimate setting usually means it’s a sponsored/private show or a TV taping – and it’s a rarity.

Of course, since it was a free event, the crowd was Chastain-like, treating the concert as a backdrop to their conversations, which was especially irritating during quieter moments such as “Sweet Annie” and “Colder Weather,” which neatly segued mid-song into the Eagles’ “Take it To the Limit.”

ZBB opened the show with, appropriately, “Homegrown,” followed by “Knee Deep,” with Di Martini picking at a mandolin. Drummer Fryar pounded the tom-toms as an introduction to “Keep Me in Mind,” which was coated with the band’s signature harmonies.

Zac Brown Band's Jimmy Di Martini and John Driskell Hopkins at the Pandora Live show at the Tabernacle on Jan. 31, 2019.
Photo: Ryan Fleisher

A smiling Brown strolled the stage sans guitar several times throughout the night, singing to the balcony during a fiddled-filled cover of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” and leading the crowd in a singalong during “Toes.”

A couple of highlights included the always-riveting “Day for the Dead,” the most ambitious song in their repertoire where slide guitar sits comfortably alongside congas and beat boxing, and ZBB’s gripping cover of The Allman Brothers Band’s “Whipping Post.”

Between Cook’s eyebrow-raising Gregg Allman impression behind the keyboard – the guy can flat-out roar – and Bowles’ tantalizing guitar, the cover is as swampy as the Allmans in their prime. 

It would be most unusual to catch the Zac Brown Band on a night when they weren’t polished and prepared. On this kickoff to Super Bowl weekend, they proved their reliability once again. 

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About the Author

Melissa Ruggieri
Melissa Ruggieri
Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for the AJC. She remembers when MTV was awesome.