Spine-tingling guitar solos light up Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first-ever Vancouver show

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 4, 1997

By Steve Newton

Those ’70s-rock fans sure are a devoted bunch. Even if one of their fave old bands hasn’t produced a hit in two decades, they’ll stick with it and flock to its concerts to hold Bic lighters on high and relive the halcyon days of 8-tracks, mag wheels, and flared pants. Take the recent Supertramp gig, when a nearly full house packed GM Place to hear those baggy-eyed Brits, even without musical mastermind Roger Hodgson at the helm. Then there’s the mid-’70s edition of Fleetwood Mac, which produced all of two exceptional albums (Fleetwood Mac and Rumours) yet is expected to sell out the 26,000-seat Tacoma Dome in October.

Fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd are a faithful bunch as well, and several thousand of them showed up at the Coliseum last Thursday (August 28) to hear the veteran guitar band perform, 20 years after the plane crash that killed original vocalist Ronnie Van Zant and then-new guitarist Steve Gaines. Some of the crowd might also have been there to see ’70s survivor Paul Rodgers, who opened the show with “Can’t Get Enough”, the first hit from his second hit band, Bad Company.

“I’ve got a question for you,” proclaimed Rodgers, still looking good in his trademark vest-over-hairy-chest outfit. “Do you feel like making love?” Many in attendance voiced their enthusiasm for that idea, so Rodgers led his crack guitar-bass-drums unit in the Grammy-winning Bad Co. tune “Feel Like Makin’ Love”. The still-powerful blues-rock crooner ended his 10-song set with another lusty number, “All Right Now”, during which the crowd sang the chorus more than he did.

Next up was 20-year-old guitar wizard Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who obviously doesn’t remember much of the ’70s himself, though you couldn’t tell that from his masterful re-creations of the Jimi Hendrix experience. His set was highlighted by an extended rendition of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” that drew comparisons to the live version by Shepherd’s main influence, Stevie Ray Vaughan. His inspired performance bodes well for his impending return to Vancouver with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai in the G-3 show this month, though a few fans were no doubt surprised or disappointed to discover that the blond bombshell doesn’t actually sing his own songs.

Anticipation was high by the time Lynyrd Skynyrd hit the stage for its first-ever Vancouver appearance, and when the curtains parted to reveal the seven-member band in all its good-ol’-boy glory, the crowd went nuts. The group commenced by giving the assembled Canuck butts a long-overdue, three-guitar spanking via “With These Hands”, the first track on its latest CD, Twenty, and followed that with “Saturday Night Special”, the stirring antigun tune first heard in Burt Reynolds’s 1974 football-in-prison flick, The Longest Yard. From that point on, the night belonged to Messrs Gibson, Fender, and Peavey, and—coming just six nights after John Fogerty’s Orpheum trip to swamp-rock heaven—it was almost too good to be true.

Johnnie Van Zant—who gave the downed band a second chance to fly when he became Skynyrd’s vocalist in ’87—looks, sounds, and even acts like his late bro onstage. By recruiting such stalwart southern-rock guitarists as Rickey Medlocke and Hughie Thomasson to accompany original guitarist Gary Rossington, the group has ensured that its patented triple-lead approach lives up to previous standards. When I heard the soaring solos of the band’s prophetic antidrug opus, “That Smell”, I experienced the same spine-tingling chill that song elicited from me in the ’70s.

Even a jolting postshow ride on the PNE’s rickety roller coaster couldn’t duplicate that exquisite rush.

To hear my interviews with Gary Rossington (from 1986) and Rickey Medlocke (from 1997) subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 200 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

John Hiatt, 2010
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover of Deep Purple, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001

….with hundreds more to come

 

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