photo by Kevin Statham. All other less-impressive photos by the Newt
By Steve Newton
Four of the seven Lynyrd Skynyrd members pictured on the cover of the band’s phenomenal first album are dead.
That’s unfortunate, obviously; tragic, even. But if you saw the band play last night you might be tempted to say “So what?” because it blew the motherf***ing roof off the place with a southern-fried riff-fest for the ages.
It was just as good as back in ’97.
Fully realizing that nobody gives a crap about anything from its latest album from 2012, Skynyrd kept its entire 14-song set stuck deep in the seventies. In fact, no less than 10 tunes were taken from its first two albums, 1973’s (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) and Second Helping from ’74.
The group opened with “Workin’ for MCA”, and from the get-go it was obvious who the real star of the show was gonna be.
It wasn’t Gary Rossington, the original guitarist who survived the 1977 plane crash and cowrote “Sweet Home Alabama”.
And it wasn’t lead singer Johnny Van Zant, the younger brother of Ronnie Van Zant, who took over the vocals from his downed bro in ’87.
It was Rickey freakin’ Medlocke, the Gibson Explorer-wielding rock maniac of Blackfoot ancestry who was brought in to play the late Allen Collins’s guitar parts in 1996.
That white-haired mofo is the freeest bird in the bunch.
There was hardly a moment during the show when Medlocke wasn’t smiling, grimacing, or leering to emphasis whatever point he was making on his cranked up instrument.
Even while strumming a mandolin on the downhome “Mississippi Kid” the guy was in full-on rock mode.
That’s not to take anything away from Rossington, who can still make a Sunburst Les Paul speak volumes with his stirring lead break on “That Smell” and get-your-ass-up boogie riffs on “Gimme Three Steps”.
And newish guitarist Mark “Sparky” Matejka–who replaced the late great Hughie Thomasson of Outlaws fame in 2006–did a smashing job handling the speedy Strat licks Ed King used to play on “Sweet Home Alabama”.
When you’ve got three shit-hot guitarists tearing up the place on deathless southern-rock songs you can’t really go wrong, in my book.
And the wacky headgear former Black Crowes bassist Johnny Colt wears in deference to Leon WIlkeson–furry animals included–was a bonus.
Special mention should also go to opening act Whiskey Myers, a youthful group out of Palestine, Texas, which won over the sold-out crowd with its Crowes-style approach to rootsy ‘n’ raw southern rock.
And kudos to the guy with Whiskey Myers who sat on an amp the whole time, playing tambourine, for being the spitting image of Steve Gaines.