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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lynyrd Skynyrd live at DTE Energy Music Theatre (Pine Knob), Clarkston, Michigan.

Lynyrd Skynyrd live at DTE Energy Music Theatre (Pine Knob), Clarkston, Michigan.
Friday 21st September, 2012.
Photo: Lynyrd Skynyrd onstage in Clarkston, Michigan. - Note: All photos: Alun Willliams
It’s probably five or six years now since I have been to a Lynyrd Skynyrd show and the last time also featured a great opening act in their ‘Southern brothers’ 38 Special and I remember that being a great night, if a lot of people that night, were clearly out of control!

This time around, it’s a rainy night in Michigan, as Fall is upon us and cooler nights are now the norm and the opening act tonight is Los Lonely Boys, a more rootsy style band, think Black Crowes kind of style.
Not really our thing, although they did have one or two good tunes I recall.
We arrived at our seats as they were finishing their set and caught them playing their best known hit, ‘How Far Is Heaven.’
The crowd clearly lapped it up and it really wasn't so bad!
Lynryd Skynryd … If ever a band felt it must be cursed, rather than blessed then surely it’s them.
Most people would say Def Leppard perhaps have had more than their fair share of bad luck, but seriously I don’t believe any band has endured what Skynyrd has and yet persevered on.
Sure they have had a number of big hits and top selling gold and platinum albums, but think back in your history books folks to 1977, when the band had been riding high on the successes of both Sweet Home Alabama and the all-time classic Freebird.
They were on a plane they chartered from Greenville, South Carolina to their next gig in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and it ran out of fuel near the end of their flight and although the pilots tried to make an emergency landing, in Mississippi, the plane ended up crashing into a nearby forest in Gillsburg.
Three band members, singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist / singer Steve Gaines and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines were all killed, along with the bands assistant tour manager Dean Kilpatrick and both pilot and co-pilot.
All the other band members were seriously injured too at the time.
Since that crash, a number of the remaining original and replacement band members, have passed away one way or another.
Allen Collins (Guitarist) died in 1990 of pneumonia, bassist Leon Wilkeson was found dead in a hotel room in 2001, Hughie Thomasson (Guitarist) died in his sleep in 2007 and in 2009 keyboard / piano player Billy Powell died.
 From the classic ‘Skynyrd line up then – Unless you included Ricky Medlocke, who was part of the very early ‘70’s incarnation of the band. – only Gary Rossington is still present.
So what does a current lineup of Skynyrd have to offer, now I’ve given you some background?!
Photo: Lynyrd Skynyrd rockin' in Detroit!
Well, there’s no question about the current players abilities.
Alongside Rossington, is the aforementioned Medlocke who’s been back onboard now since 1996, youngest of the Van Zant brothers, Johnny stepped into big brother Ronnie’s shoes in 1987, when the surviving members of the classic lineup hit the road again.
Incidentally, other Van Zant brother Donnie fronts 38 Special, for those that didn’t know it …
 Backing vocalist Dale Krantz-Rossington, has been a part of the band since ’87, fellow backing vocalist Carol Chase since ’91, then drummer Michael Cartellone (Damn Yankees, Accept) has been in since ’99, Mark Matejka (Guitars) since 2006, Peter Keys (Keyboards / Piano) in 2009 and Johnny Colt on bass is a new addition this year.
Photo: Mark Matejka and Ricky Medlocke - Let's jam!
Frequent jamming / posing together, throughout the evening for both Medlocke and Matejka, becomes very much the norm ...
Together, the band all look and play the part of a 2012 Lynyrd Skynyrd in great style.
They hit the stage at 9pm and opened with the title track of their latest album, ‘Last of a Dying Breed,’ which to be honest, sounds like it could’ve been from any of the band’s historic past. Good stuff!
Then they launched right into ‘What’s Your Name,’ to huge cheers and applause, welcome back to your northern home boys!
Johnny says, “Let’s make some noise and do some ‘Down South Jukin’!”
No question, it may not be the original band, but clearly Michigan is loving the sounds tonight!
‘That Smell’ was next which again the fans lapped up, even though they were now getting drenched, as the heavens weren’t about to let up.
Wasting no time at all they gave us ‘Saturday Night Special,’ which is classic Skynyrd once again and boy, do they sound on their game.
Top photo: Johnny Van Zant and Gary Rossington, watched by Michael Cartellone.
Lower photo: Skynyrd caught in great lighting.
Johnny then steps up to the microphone to ask the question, ‘How many real die hard Skynyrd fans are out there tonight then? Let’s boogie!’
Then they pick their third song of the evening from the ‘Street Survivors’ album in ‘I Know A Little.’
Johnny is now in talk mode, as he dedicates the next song to ‘each and every one of our troops out there, in harms ways or any one that’s served their country here,’ and it’s ‘Simple Man.’
A great song and the backdrop behind the band reflects every emblem of the Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force and more.
Moving stuff indeed!
Next they pull together a medley, starting with ‘Gimme Back My Bullets,’ that leads in to ‘Whiskey Rock-a-roller,’ then ‘The Needle and the Spoon,’ from the ‘Second Helping’ album, where Ronnie had written about the dangers of drug usage.
They then pull out the classy ‘Tuesday Gone,’ great song which again is warmly received, closely followed by ‘Good Teacher.’
Photo: Johnny Van Zant, I feel you Detroit ...!'
You start to realize that we must be on the home straight, when a band seems to hitting all their big, big songs, which starts with ‘Gimme Three Steps,’ a classic in anyone’s book, then ‘The Breeze,’ then the big old Confederate flag hangs as the backdrop, with Alabama boldly emblazoned across it, cue ‘Sweet Home Alabama!’
They are on a roll!
Top Photo: These Southern boys rock, no doubt about it!
Lower Photo: Guitarists unite!
A great if somewhat kind of short set, I’m guessing because of the rain teaming down and the band was looking out for the fans.
As they leave the stage and fans are shouting for more, a spotlight focuses on a golden eagle that sits upon a confederate flag on top of the piano.
Photo: The Eagle and 'that' flag!
Then a backdrop falls with all their fallen, former band mates names upon it and Johnny says, “In the words of my great brother Ronnie Van Zant, ‘What song is it you want to hear? Freebird!”
 No question, the most anticipated song of the night by all!
They gave us a good solid hour and a half set and I for one left a happy man, I know more than a few others did too!
Yes, these boys have still got it ..., yes they do!
Rating: 4 out of 5
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