Skynyrd’s Live at Knebworth ’76 makes me pine for Ronnie and the shitkicker days of southern-rock

By Steve Newton

There’s quite a few bands that I really wish I’d seen perform live in their prime, but Lynyrd Skynyrd is right up there at the top.

On August 21, 1976–the day Skynyrd played the Knebworth Festival along with the likes of Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, 10cc, and the Rolling Stones–I was still a teenager hungry for shitkicker southern-rock tunes and smokin’ hot guitar licks.

I woulda killed to have been in jolly old England that day.

To ease my pain somewhat, the fine folks at New York’s Kayos Productions–veteran PR specialist Carol Kaye, to be exact–just sent me a CD copy of Live at Knebworth ’76, which was released in various formats–DVD + CD, Blu-ray + CD, limited edition 2 LP + DVD, and digital–by Universal Music’s Eagle Rock Entertainment label last Friday.  I would have preferred the vinyl version rather than the CD myself, but hey–life’s full of disappointments.

Like not getting to see Lynyrd Skynyrd with Ronnie Van Zant.

I did get to see them with brother Johnny a couple of times, though–back in 1997 at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum with the late Hughie Thomasson on board and then right up close at the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver in 2005–and both times they were freakin’ awesome.

But it wasn’t Ronnie.

The legendary lineup of vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, guitarists Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, and Steve Gaines; keyboardist Billy Powell, bassist Leon Wilkeson, drummer Artimus Pyle, and the Honkettes–backup vocalists JoJo Billingsley, Leslie Hawkins, and Steve’s sister Cassie Gaines–really went to town at the Knebworth Festival that day.

And holy crap could those longhaired boys from Florida and Oklahoma make them geetars sing.

The setlist at Knebworth included two of my all-time favourite Skynyrd tunes–“Saturday Night Special” and the rollicking cover of J.J. Cale’s “Call Me the Breeze”–as well as the blockbuster radio hits “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird”. For the audiophiles out there, the new releases feature “cleaned up picture and remastered audio.”

When I interviewed Gary Rossington in 1986–when he and wife Dale Rossington-Krantz were fronting their new band Rossington–he told me that, if it weren’t for that plane crash, his old group would still be kickin’ up a storm.

“I’m sure Skynyrd would have stayed together and kept it up,” he said, ” ’cause we were real close. We were more friends and brothers than really a band.”

Track listing:

“Workin’ For MCA”
“I Ain’t The One”
“Saturday Night Special”
“Whiskey Rock-A-Roller”
“Travelin’ Man”
“Gimme Three Steps”
“Call Me The Breeze”
“T For Texas”
“Sweet Home Alabama”
“Free Bird”




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