What do you get when you have three talented musicians that also happen to be great friends? You get one hell of a show. In support of their new album, Just South of Moonlight, Zack Mack (Brimstone Jones), Zach Myers (Shinedown) and J.R. Moore (Ingram Hill) made a stop at Q Bar in Darien, IL as part of their 6-week Night Like This tour. (Chris Allen, who also appears on the album, was not out with them on this run.)
The night started off with two local band openers along with direct support from Frank Viele, who mentioned he was hand-picked by Zach Myers for this tour. Seated in a chair, armed only with a guitar and his voice, he couldn’t have been happier. In between songs he told some fun stories of his Mom and how proud she was of him. (His first album, Fall Your Way, debuted a few days earlier.) At one point he joked, “Last week I was selling paper clips. Now I’m on tour with Zach Myers.” You couldn’t help but be excited for him. When he wasn’t telling stories, his gruff vocals spoke volumes as he sang about things that happen to everyone at some point in their life; heartbreak, heartache, happiness. Listening to him sing, you knew his conviction was truth, and as he proclaimed, he wore his heart on his sleeve.
While it’s quite possible those in attendance that night didn’t know exactly what they were in for prior to the show, now that it’s all said and done, I can bet it was a night they won’t soon forget. As Zack Mack, Zach Myers and J.R. Moore took the stage, all three picking up an acoustic guitar, the crowd gathered in close. The night turned into 2+ hours of heartfelt songs with beautiful harmonies along with a few covers thrown in here and there, from three extremely talented musicians who clearly love what they do.
The night started off with Annalee, a real toe-tapper which also included the title of their newest album in the chorus, “…breaking every heart Just South of Moonlight.” This lead into Super 8 (a Jason Isbell cover with the line, “I don’t want to die in a Super 8 Motel just because somebody’s evening didn’t go so well.”) This was followed by Angel From Montgomery, from the Allen, Mack & Myers album Shuffle, which Zach reminded everyone could only be bought at shows and not online. (Editor note: Shuffle is a fantastic album with an unexpected surprise at the end. Anyone remember hidden tracks?)
Zack, Zach and J.R. traded off lead vocals during various songs, while during others, they each would take a verse and then come back together in harmony during the chorus. This often was the most magical part of the night. Who doesn’t love harmonies? Well, that and when Zach was messing around with the other guys while they were singing their verses. Aside from the musical talent clearly evident on stage, all the joking around between them made you feel like you were getting a glimpse into what they are like off stage. Acting like brothers who like to harass and cause trouble, the smiles and laughter seen on their faces all night was a sure sign that they love what they’re doing and are having a good time doing it.
Zach asked if anyone had heard any of the songs he and Brent Smith (Shinedown) had covered under the name, Smith & Myers and there were many cheers from the crowd. They started She Talks to Angels (The Black Crowes) and the crowd got even more excited. Having seen Zack Mack play with his band, Brimstone Jones, when I was in Memphis, I was familiar with his vocals on this song and it sounded fantastic. Then almost as if Zach Myers were singing a line from a song, while they were still playing he said, “Let’s go to church.” Without any hesitation, they all switched gears and started playing U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For which lead into an amazing version of Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic. It still gives me chills when I think about it. The power behind their vocals rocked you to the core. The flawless transition between songs happened quite often during the night. A true sign they have been playing together for a long time. Although, at one point, Zach commented that he would often leave Zack and J.R. hanging (insert evil laughter), not knowing which song he would go into next. He admitted from time to time they did this to him and he hated it. It made for some fun good-hearted joking all night. Zach also mentioned that they don’t really follow a set list. Yes, they wrote down songs, but it was more of a road map.
Before playing Shinedown’s Shed Some Light, Zach mentioned it was his favorite Shinedown song and the best song Shinedown had ever written. This lead into Alice in Chains’ Nutshell and Pearl Jam’s Black. They played another song from their new album, Ophelia, which was actually a cover by The Band. A super upbeat song, it was fun to watch them play. J.R. took a turn with lead vocals on a song he said he wrote in 1967, kidding of course, but he sang the Ingram Hill song, Chicago, just for us. There was some more joking going on when the subject of TV theme songs came up. Zach Myers hated to admit he only knew one. J.R. more or less dared him to play it, and he did.
“I’m going to sing a song for you,
And Bill’s going to show you a thing or two,
You’ll have some fun now with me and all the gang,
Learning from each other while we do our thing,
Nah nah nah, gonna have a good time…”
At first the crowd didn’t realize they had a part to play, but after the 2nd round they were loud and clear, “HEY! HEY! HEY!” Yes, the one TV theme song Zach knows is from Fat Albert. “HEY! HEY! HEY!” (Come on, it’s fun to say!)
While everyone sang, Zach Myers also played acoustic guitar and piano, Zack Mack played acoustic guitar, piano and harmonica and J.R. played acoustic and rocked the tambourine a time or two. There was a banjo sitting on stage in the guitar rack, but unfortunately, it was never played. A few times, the three of them would interact and gather in front of a mic, or just stand together on stage strumming guitars together in a small semi-circle. Obviously the crowd didn’t always know what was going to happen next, but it was apparent a couple times that band members were keeping each other on their toes as well. Zack Mack surprised Zach and J.R. when he played piano during their cover of the Jackson Browne song, Rosie. After Zach Myers took a turn behind the keys for Shinedown’s Unity and right before he started to play Pretty Things, from the Shuffle album, Zach and J.R. had a puzzled look when they noticed Zack Mack was getting ready to play harmonica. Apparently that wasn’t the norm and Zach joked it was the remix version. For Zach’s last song on the piano, he gave the crowd a choice. They could hear a big 90’s hit or a 60’s soul classic. I personally wanted the 60’s soul song, but the crowd chose 90’s and they sang along to every word of Matchbox 20’s 3AM. When everyone was back on guitar, they played another cover, Keep Your Heart Young (Brandi Carlile) with a chorus that stood out to me. After all, who really wants to grow up?
“Don’t trade in your tic-tac box for a ball on the end of the chain
And don’t go spending grandpa’s pennies buying into the game
You gotta keep your heart young
Don’t go growin’ old before your time has come
You can’t take back what you have done
You gotta keep your heart young”
They played two more from Shuffle, When It Comes To You and All I Found before playing Looking For A Lover, from Just South of Moonlight. Zach then surprised Zack Mack and J.R. with the next song. I even heard Zack Mack say, “We never play this.” I guess there is a first time for everything as they played a great version of Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls. By this point, I had no idea what time it was as the night had literally flown by, but they ended up playing four more songs. As noted by the band on social media the next day about their posted “road map,” “This one went pretty off the reservation last night.” Indeed it did, but that was more than okay.
Zach mentioned the next song was for the lady that requested it on Facebook. Much to my surprise, it was a cover of The Weight by The Band that had everyone singing a verse, including Frank Viele, along with Zack Mack on piano. Towards the end of the song, Zach Myers had the crowd clapping along but when he handed vocal duties off to Zack Mack, he belted it out like nobody’s business. Frank was off to the side of the stage waving his hat as if Zack were on fire. It was a magnificent end to a great song. Before singing the third verse of the next song, Zach Myers mentioned they were all from Memphis and that the next part of the song was very personal to them. Let me tell you, the power behind their voices during this verse was felt throughout that entire room. The song of course, was Walking in Memphis (Marc Cohen).
“Now, they’ve got catfish on the table
They’ve got gospel in the air
And Reverend Green, be glad to see you
When you haven’t got a prayer
But boy you got a prayer in Memphis”
They ended the night gathered around center mic, singing a very heart felt version of Forever and Ever, Amen by Randy Travis. While everyone has their own opinion, for me, the best part about seeing Zack Mack, Zach Myers and J.R. Moore perform together is that you never know what you’re going to get. The spontaneity, not to mention the on-stage joking and good-natured interaction these guys have with each other, coupled with the amazing talent they bring to the stage, leaves you with a night you won’t soon forget. Mack, Myers and Moore will be out through May 10.. Find all tour dates and VIP options here.
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