Zac Brown Band’s music has always been an amalgam of several different styles, but never before have they jammed all of them into one song.
During a recent stop at Bristow, Virginia’s Jiffy Lube Live amphitheater as part of their Black Out the Sun Tour, ZBB busted out the Who’s 1971 classic “Baba O’Riley.” And it’s safe to say that Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend never heard it sound quite like this. Brown and his band have trotted out the chestnut throughout this summer.
Their version begins faithful to the original and then quickly veers into something that can only be described as the Who crossed with Chicago, Sly and the Family Stone and Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s four seasons in one day — with horns.
“Baba O’Riley,” the opening track to the band’s Who’s Next album, is one of rock’s most beloved anthems of teenage disenfranchisement. Townshend supposedly wrote it after playing Woodstock and seeing teenagers completely zonked on drugs.
Just as Daltrey and Townshend do, Brown and keyboardist Clay Cook trade off on vocals, with the whole band joining in on the famous “It’s only teenage wasteland” a cappella refrain. Guitarist Coy Bowles and fiddle player Jimmy De Martini turn in solos that make hair stand on end. And video footage of an expanding Union Jack, the national flag of the United Kingdom, only adds to the trippy effect of the seven-minute rendition.
It may not be every fan’s taste but what comes through loud and clear is the band’s respect and reverence for the song, something they share with a number of other acts, including Pearl Jam, Grateful Dead and even Blue Man Group, who have covered the rock standard.