As a companion to the last live review, featuring a 70s group (Wishbone Ash) with only one original member, here is a report on another , Lynyrd Skynyrd. Pedants may say that guitarist Ricky Medlocke is an ‘original’, but other pedants may say that playing drums on a couple of songs that surfaced on the posthumous ‘First and Last’ lp isn’t really a qualification. Anyway…
April 13 2014 , and they are playing at a festival in Florida. Their set nowadays is only 80 minutes or so, and the slot in Florida meant an even shorter appearance.
They kick off with new song ‘Last of a Dying Breed’, which is a bit pacier than classic Skynyrd tempo. ‘What’s your name’ brings the audience back to the 70s and is followed by ‘Down South Jukin” from the afore-mentioned ‘First and Last’. The familiar set continues with ‘That Smell’, where we are (not for the only time) encouraged to sing along by Johnny V Z. His patter, for me, can get very tiresome though, and the ‘die-hard’ Skynyrd fans are asked to identify themselves. It pretty much sums up the Skynyrd ethos these days, seeing themselves as a singalong party outfit rather than presenting themselves to a hushed reverent audience. (I would much rather listen to the people on stage, for whom I have paid the ticket, rather than listen to some loud bloke next to me. Is that wrong?!).
‘I know a Little’ is a staple these days, and we get more of Johnny’s standard stagefare, mentioning US troops abroad before requesting another participation on ‘Simple Man’.
Billy Powell was still tinkling away then, and the deaths of he and Leon Wilkinson have left Gary Rossington as ‘last man standing’ . (See above note re Mr Medlocke). When the group, featuring many of the ‘classic’ line-up, reformed in 1987 it included Artimus Pyle on drums. He left in ’91, and I seem to remember his instigating some sort of ‘action’ whereby there had to be 3 ‘originals’ in order for the name to be used? Please forgive me if I am mistaken though.
Anyway, back to the music, and it’s ‘Gimme Three Steps’, ‘Call me the Breeze’ and a gentle intro heralds ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. The inevitable ‘Freebird ‘ is the encore and that is it.
The Skynyrd machine keeps on rolling. The set is basically their 70s stuff plus maybe one or two from their current record. Like Wishbone Ash, they do occasionally flex their muscles in the studio, but I can safely suggest to Mr Powell that a Wishbone Ash ‘Christmas ‘ record a la Skynyrd should not be a number one priority!
I saw LS at Leeds University in 76 (with Rossington and Collins) and again a year later with 3rd guitarist Steve Gaines and backing singers. I had bought the ‘1991’and ‘Last Rebel’ cds when we went to see them in 1997 in Manchester, and the stuff from ‘Twenty’ was good enough to encourage me to buy it. Are their ‘die-hard’ fans people who would go to see ANY outfit with the name attached, or are they purists who don’t consider the current line-up ‘valid’? The noise in Florida seemed to indicate the former.
Like many of their US contemporaries under similar circumstances (Pure Prairie League, Poco, Little Feat) they seem to have their comfort zone over there, and sadly they have little need to come across the pond.
So how would Lynyrd Skynyrd 2014 sound if they did a ‘Wishbone Ash 2014’ and performed their popular 70s double live lp in its entirety?! Something for fans of LS and WA to mull over.