Truist Park provided friendly environs for a party rockin’ group that couldn’t have sounded tighter

The sky was angry Thursday night at Truist Park, the sticky humidity segueing into a deluge of rain as Def Leppard sang its second song “Fire It Up.” Lightning and thunder in the distance added an element of drama.

However, Atlanta’s own Zac Brown Band found much friendlier climes when they arrived at Truist 24 hours later. The ballpark had just experienced brief showers and a welcome drop in temperature into the 70s. Humidity lifted, the sun returned and a kind breeze gave the near sold-out crowd a gentle nudge as Brown showed off his Atlanta Braves World Series ring gifted to him by the team.

The band, over two-and-a-half hours, proceeded to offer up a three-act set list encompassing most of their greatest hits, a smattering of new cuts from “The Comeback” album and a delightful smorgasbord of cover tunes from the 1970s to today. Their professionalism and boisterous energy never let up from beginning to end.

“We’ll take you on a journey of the band,” said Brown, in a tight Iron Maiden sleeveless shirt that showed off his elaborately tatted arms.

The opening seven songs were performed on a stage transformed into a small bar like the ones they used to play incessantly for years before their big label debut that introduced the world to “Chicken Fried” in 2008, a song that led to a raft of other hits that turned them into the crowd-pleasing arena act they are today.

Brown specifically namechecked Dixie Tavern, a mere 1.9 miles from Truist Park, where the band regularly plied its trade before much smaller audiences. “I played many a show there,” he said wistfully. “A lot of shows were just me and the guitar.”

So he opened the concert with an acoustic version of the 2009 No. 1 country hit “Toes,” a song that effectively evoked Jimmy Buffett with a definable Georgia twist. He then began adding band members, describing how he met each one with an affectionate anecdote or two: John Driskell Hopkins, fiddler Jimmy De Martini, Clay Cook, Coy Bowles, Matt Mangano drummers Daniel de los Reyes and Chris Fryar. (Country musician Caroline Jones recently joined the tour as an honorary member.)

By the fourth song, the core band was all on stage and Brown described how, as the lead of a bar band, he had to read the crowd and decide what covers would work to keep patrons happy, whether it was Pink Floyd or Bill Withers. Creating a better set list, he said, was the difference between eating ramen that night or a special trip to Taco Bell. The band then played an early medley of country classics including “Dixieland Delight,” “9 to 5″ and “Forever and Ever Amen.”

The second act added a trio of brass players and two back-up singers, with a stage set up more befitting a stadium show.

By then, the pattern was set, with the band’s catalog of songs fitting largely into one of three categories.

Brown’s warm, authentically likable vocals envelop the heartfelt ballads, often tinged with sadness and regret, such as “Goodbye In Her Eyes” and “Sweet Annie.”

There are mid-tempo tunes featuring odes to small-town living, common ground and just being regular folks such as “GA Clay,” “Same Boat,” the band’s first No. 1 country airplay hit in six years, and “Out in the Middle,” the latest single with lines like “Just some good old boys and good old girls/hunting red dirt dreams in a concrete world.”

And for those who don’t want to think much at all but just want to dance and raise their PBRs in the air, the band gave it their all during alcohol-infused beach songs “Jump Right In” and “Knee Deep.” And de Martini ended the act by giving Satan the appropriate beatdown with his fiddle on “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

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Zac Brown Band's John Driskell Hopkins during the near sold-out Truist Park concert Friday, June 17, 2022 on their Out in the Middle tour. Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Zac Brown Band's John Driskell Hopkins during the near sold-out Truist Park concert Friday, June 17, 2022 on their Out in the Middle tour.
Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Combined ShapeCaption
Zac Brown Band's John Driskell Hopkins during the near sold-out Truist Park concert Friday, June 17, 2022 on their Out in the Middle tour. Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The encore featured opening act the Robert Randolph Band for what Brown called a “mega band” singing a mega medley of pop and R&B hits of stretching five decades. Different band members tackled the vocals of various songs, whether it was Pharrell’s “Happy” (de los Reyes), Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” (Jones) or Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long (Hopkins). Brown “Rickrolled” himself with “Never Gonna Give You Up,” followed by a funky Silk Sonic album cut “Fly as Me.”

During “Colder Weather,” Brown paused, looked high into the rafters and appeared overcome by emotion over the size of the crowd and the loving reception the entire night. He then sang a bit of “Take It to the Limit” by the Eagles, a band that was a clear inspiration for many of the harmony-infused Zac Brown songs of yore, before returning to “Colder Weather.” He ended the song with a knowing nod to Hopkins, his longtime friend who recently announced he had ALS. (Band members and crew spent much of the concert donning T-shirts “Hop on a Cure,” Hopkins’ new charity to raise money to find a cure for the disease.)

And the band, never political but always patriotic, finished the night with the one-two punch of “America the Beautiful” and “Chicken Fried.”

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Jimmy De Martini, Zac Brown Band fiddler, at Truist Park Friday, June 17, 2022 on their Out in the Middle tour. Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jimmy De Martini, Zac Brown Band fiddler, at Truist Park Friday, June 17, 2022 on their Out in the Middle tour.
Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Combined ShapeCaption
Jimmy De Martini, Zac Brown Band fiddler, at Truist Park Friday, June 17, 2022 on their Out in the Middle tour. Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution