Words By Carmen Macri
Before delving into this review, I must confess that my unwavering love for Zach Bryan, who happens to be my all-time favorite artist, may introduce some bias. However, if we can set aside personal preferences and have faith in my impeccable taste, let’s proceed.
Acquiring tickets for this concert turned into a chaotic ordeal after Zach Bryan’s decision to boycott TicketMaster (and rightly so — down with the scalpers!). Instead of sky-high prices, ticket costs were capped at $150, but the process to obtain them became a lottery of chance. Only those randomly selected were deemed eligible. I, unfortunately, was not one of those lucky few. I was placed into an online waiting room and had to put all my cards on some unlucky schmuck bailing last minute. Regardless, I made it to the concert.
Trampled by Turtles took the stage as the opening act, and to no one’s surprise, they unleashed unparalleled domination. This group of six-string virtuosos crafted an electrifying atmosphere that left the audience in awe. And fortunately for the audience, Trampled by Turtles brought Bryan out for a little pre-show surprise and let him sing alongside them for their final two songs.
During the brief intermission between sets, the bars became flooded with last-minute drink refills (myself included) fortifying themselves for hours of relentless dancing and singing. After a seemingly endless stretch of time, though it was merely a fleeting handful of minutes, the lights gradually dimmed, and the crowd erupted. Bryan with the perfect cold open to any concert — “Open The Gate.” Never before have I witnessed a concert where the entire crowd was so intimately acquainted with every single lyric. Not a single beat was missed.
Midway through the concert, Bryan unleashed a bombshell on the crowd: It turns out that half of the cherished songs we all hold dear were crafted within the confines of Jacksonville. Bryan was stationed in Jacksonville during his time in the Navy back in 2019. One can only imagine the thunderous chorus of “DUUUVAL!” chants that ensued in response. (Of course, I participated.)
Occasionally, it can be frustrating when an artist takes a step back during the chorus of a song, letting the crowd take control. However, when Bryan did so, it was pure magic. Witnessing the entire stadium resoundingly echo the lyrics back to him was a jaw-dropping moment. One can only imagine the indescribable feeling it must evoke within him. That is something that sets Bryan’s concerts apart from the rest: He has a profound connection with the audience making small talk in between songs and reassuring the crowd how much he loves the city we’re in.
When the time came for Bryan to play “Heavy Eyes” (undoubtedly, my favorite song), I was pleasantly surprised I didn’t sink through the floor or receive any hushing remarks. My voice is gone, but that’s OK — it was worth it.
Each song on the setlist weaved a captivating tale, and Bryan proved himself to be an exceptional storyteller. The concert was a perfect blend of heartfelt melodies and songs that make me wish I grew up in Oklahoma line dancing.
The climax of the concert unquestionably stood out as the highlight. Like many concerts where the artist exits the stage, attempting to deceive the crowd into believing the night has concluded, only to have us collectively chant, “One more song! One more song!” Bryan added his unique touch to the experience. Emerging from backstage, Bryan, accompanied by his bandmates and the members of Trampled by Turtles, held a guitar in hand, strumming the enchanting melody of “Revival.” The majority of the crowd was well aware that he wouldn’t conclude the set without performing that particular song. However, they were unaware of Bryan’s plan to deliver a 15-minute rendition, intertwining it with heartfelt introductions and praises for his talented bandmates, all while in-between the chorus “We’re having an all-night revival…” — and indeed, that’s exactly what ensued. Not a single moment did the audience or Bryan himself waver. Throughout the entire song, the crowd remained on their feet, harmoniously joining in the singing.
My bias aside, a Zach Bryan concert is one that should be on everyone’s bucket list.