The final night of C2C Festival is always coloured with a bittersweet sense of sadness, as the three-day country music extravaganza draws to a close for another year.
Nonetheless, one of modern country's most decorated and most eclectic artists, the Zac Brown Band, was on hand to ensure the festival's 10th-anniversary celebration truly went out with a bang.
All nine - yes, nine - members of the ensemble strode out casually onto the stage, before the main man himself, Zac, opened the show by apologising for not coming back to the UK since 2017.
As the multi-instrumentalists stormed through the rootsy small-town anthem, ‘Homegrown’, and the blissful, Buffettian escapism of ‘Knee Deep’, it was clear this was not going to be a standard headline set.
At times, with Caroline Jones’ cavernous vocals, Lindsay Ell's electrifying guest guitar solo, Jimmy De Martini's rip-roaring fiddle-playing and Daniel De Los Reyes’ percussion masterclass, it felt more like a histrionic opera than a country concert.
Each member of the band got their turn to showcase their enviable skills, but the beating heart of the set, as always, was Zac Brown.
He prowled across the stage like a caged bull, flitting between muscled-up, rock-inspired charisma and the delicate, introspective vulnerability that makes ballads such as ‘Colder Weather’ and ‘My Old Man’ so special.
The latter, which Zac introduced with a tribute to his own father, stunned the O2 crowd into complete silence, everyone's gaze trained solely on the dusty spotlight that illuminated the unmistakable silhouette of Zac and his trusty guitar.
The audience lapped up the covers included in the set, which ranged from Kings of Leon's ‘Sex on Fire’ to Bruce Springsteen's ‘Dancing in the Dark’.
The band also treated attendees to a live debut of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint It Black’, which they recorded for the new Stoned Cold Country tribute album.
It was delivered with ferocity and fire, and although it perhaps lacked the looseness that characterised The Rolling Stones’ performances, it was still a stellar moment in the set.
Hearing 20,000 voices join together for the grand finale, the irresistible, iconic ‘Chicken Fried’, was truly special, and capped off a once-in-a-lifetime show that will stay with attendees for a long, long time.
Taken from The O2 in London, UK on March 12th 2023.
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