“Y’all don’t know what’s about to happen,” Zac Brown teased the Fenway Park crowd on Saturday night, during the second of two shows headlined by the Georgia-born collective over the weekend. The group he leads, the Zac Brown Band, has amassed its stadium-filling following for being unpredictable, a combination of its musical chops and seemingly endless desire to please crowds. On Saturday night, their sprawling, cover-packed set drew inspiration from down-home country’s fiddle-led rave-ups, Kenny Chesney’s beachcombing twang-pop, soft rock’s sentimentalism, big-ticket rock’s massive choruses, and the long, strange trips taken by jam bands. The end result had something for almost everybody — even a snippet of last year’s summer smash, “Despacito.”
Brown and his band made their splash in country music with “Chicken Fried,” an upbeat ode to down-South pleasures (”a pair of jeans that fit just right,” “sweet tea, pecan pie, and homemade wine,” et cetera) that showed off their humble charm and fluency in writing hooks. A flurry of country-chart-topping singles followed: the island-life ode “Toes,” the road chronicle “Highway 20 Ride,” the sun-dappled “Keep Me in Mind.” Their reputation as a genre-melding live act grew, and their records began reflecting their all-embracing tastes. They even dipped into pop on tracks like 2015’s “Beautiful Drug,” which is awash in the keyboard flourishes and wordless choruses that littered mid-2010s radio playlists — a prelude of sorts to present-day country-pop crossovers by Florida Georgia Line and Maren Morris.
Saturday’s 2½-hour show included those tracks as well as the doomy fiddle showcase “It’s Not OK,” the power-ballad “Colder Weather,” and the touching tribute to dads “My Old Man” (which gave the assembled a chance to celebrate Father’s Day a bit early). It also took the crowd to rock school, with varying results; the stretched-out, solo-heavy cover of the Allman Brothers Band’s abyss-perched “Whipping Post” was spectacular, multi-instrumentalist Clay Cook’s vocal sounding utterly possessed and the solos reeled off by his bandmates uniformly dazzling, and their homage to Joe Cocker’s revival-tent flip of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends” had a similarly wide-open feel. But the laid-back vocal of “Paradise City” did make Axl Rose’s dream destination seem a little too close to Margaritaville.
For the encore, the band played a round-robin game of sorts, allowing each member to briefly front a cover — this was where “Despacito” came into play, as did Alice in Chains’s gloomy “Man in the Box,” the Doobie Brothers’ propulsive “Long Train Runnin’,” and Sly and the Family Stone’s exuberant “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” among others. This eventually gave way to a raucous run-through of the Beastie Boys’ rowdy 1994 cut “Sabotage,” an unexpected genre-wise) yet totally understandable (for its scream-along appeal) choice. Brown and his bandmates seemed to be on a mission to show the audience they could handle almost any challenge — whether it was finger-twisting solos or keeping a five-figure crowd wondering what might happen next.
Zac Brown Band
With the Mark O’Connor Band and Darrell Scott
At Fenway Park, Saturday (also Friday)Maura Johnston can be reached at email@example.com.