Sunday, April 28, 2013 | 1:38 p.m.
With the opening notes of “Enter Sandman” ringing out, the singer stepped to the mic. Only it wasn’t Metallica’s James Hetfield. Nor was it Zac Brown, leader of the Zac Brown Band and singer of 21 of the band’s 23 songs on Saturday night at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
It was John Driskell Hopkins, the bass player and, up until this point, an inconspicuous presence onstage, where his Civil War-era facial hair commanded more attention than his low end or backup vocals.
But Hopkins owned it. Digging deep into a guttural growl, he delivered a performance worthy of the metal icon’s most recognizable song.
Over two hours at The Cosmopolitan’s Chelsea Ballroom, the Zac Brown Band proved that it has the cojones to tackle any genre and song. When it came time to deviate from its roster of original hits, the band went big. Really big.
“We’re going to take you back a bit,” Brown said early on in the set. Expecting a selection from their 2008 major label debut to follow, or perhaps something from a pair of self-released albums they dropped in the mid-2000s, ZBB instead lit into a faithful cover of Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching.”
As he did throughout the night, violinist Jimmy De Martini took the lead, replicating fellow jam band violinist Boyd Tinsley to a T and bringing the crowd alive for not the first time in the night.
The seven-piece of Brown, Hopkins, De Martini, guitarist Clay Cook, organist Coy Bowles and percussionists Daniel de los Reyes and Chris Fryar simply refuses to be pigeonholed as a straightaway country act. A song you might have heard on CMT on a Sunday morning will evolve into a freewheeling jam. A speed-demon bluegrass number will follow a tender ballad. Out of nowhere, Edgar Winter Group’s instrumental “Frankenstein” will appear.
If you tended to not be familiar with the band’s material, these surprises were just the kind of thing to warm you to the Atlanta-based outfit.
And if you happened to catch the band at Mandalay Bay Events Center in January 2012, the 4,000-capacity Chelsea was, simply put, a revelation. An intimacy missing from that show was felt in full force as the beanie-capped Brown seemed to be in tears after a stirring performance of “Colder Weather.” (ZBB also rocked The Joint in The Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas in March 2010.)
“Let’s all get lost together tonight, OK?” Brown requested during “Knee Deep,” and the crowd did its best to oblige. It certainly got lost in a spiraling guitar solo from Cook, who transformed “Who Knows” into a show highlight, climaxing in some Allman Brothers-style guitar interplay with Brown.
The band was so hot, one can only imagine the saturation status of Brown’s beanie by the time the band returned for an encore, which kicked into overdrive with an oh-no-they-didn’t cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” then segued with we-do-this-every-night swagger into “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
A new song, “One Day,” foreshadowed what’s to come with Zac Brown Band’s next full-length. Rooted in country but riding a ’70s soft rock groove, it threw another monkey wrench into a set that never telegraphed where it was going.
Exit light, enter night -- and a pair of jeans that fit just right.
Saturday’s set list: “Jump Right In,” “As She’s Walking Away,” “Knee Deep,” “Free”/“Into the Mystic,” “Natural Disaster,” “Ants Marching,” “The Wind,” “Colder Weather,” “One Day,” “Where the Boat Leaves From”/“One Love,” “Who Knows,” “Day That I Die,” “Keep Me in Mind,” “Enter Sandman,” “Whiskey’s Gone,” “Highway 20 Ride,” “Quiet Your Mind,” “Toes,” “Goodbye in Her Eyes” and “Chicken Fried.” Encore: “Uncaged”/“Kashmir”/“The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
Jack Houston is editor of Las Vegas Magazine, Las Vegas Life and Vegas2Go, publications of Greenspun Media Group, which also owns the Las Vegas Sun, Vegas DeLuxe and Las Vegas Weekly. Houston is not related to Brown, despite the similar facial hair.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas dares to be different. From the hotel’s red reservations desks to fine art found throughout the resort, The Cosmopolitan’s signature style is helping to pave its own path on the Las Vegas Strip.
Upon entering the resort, you’re greeted by pillars of video boards playing video art by Digital Kitchen and David Rockwell Studio exclusively produced for The Cosmopolitan. Just beyond that, you’ll find all your favorite casino games on the resort’s 100,000-square-foot casino floor.
The Cosmopolitan’s rooms standout as the resort’s most unique feature. About 2,220 of The Cosmopolitan’s 2,995 rooms have 6-foot deep terraces that span the length of the room, a first at a modern Strip hotel. Other in-room amenities include soaking tubs, kitchenettes and quirky accessories like artsy coffee table books.
The dining experience at The Cosmopolitan isn’t something you’ll find at other Strip resorts, either. All of The Cosmopolitan’s 13 restaurateurs are new to the Las Vegas market. You’ll find American steakhouse fare in a modern setting at STK, top-notch sushi at Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill and the freshest fish flown in from the Mediterranean daily at Estiatorio Milos.
Whether the sun is up or down, Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub is the place to find the party at The Cosmopolitan. The venue is a dayclub/nightclub, complete with a pool and cabanas outside and three different rooms with three different vibes inside.
If nightclubs aren’t your thing, you can grab a drink at one of The Cosmopolitan’s five other bars, like The Chandelier, which is encased in 2 million dripping crystals.