Lynyrd Skynyrd played a dress rehearsal of sorts for its upcoming farewell tour on Thursday, March 15 at the Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta. It doubled as a live broadcast for the band’s limited-run Freebird Southern rock station on SiriusXM.
The 1,800 capacity venue offered a rare opportunity to see Rock and Roll Hall of Famers in an intimate setting. If anything, the invitee-only feel made it seem like an even bigger deal than another gig at the much larger Fox Theater, the site of 1976 live album One More From the Road.
Playing the Classics
An ambitious cover band could be heard playing “Tuesday’s Gone” at a nearby bar as fans waited outside to pass through security. Likewise, the real Skynyrd served up a helping of classic rock nostalgia. The group tore through a lengthy set list dominated by obvious hits from the 1970s. “Down South Jukin'” from the band’s 1973 debut album was the closest thing to a deep cut. The live and radio audience likely wanted to sing along to “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Simple Man” and other hits, making the lack of new material a wise choice.
Southern Rock’s All-Stars
As for the performers on stage, the common knock on any reunited band is the lack of original members. After all, only guitarist Gary Rossington remains from the classic Skynyrd lineup. However, his current brothers on the road include Blackfoot guitarist and early Skynyrd contributor Rickey Medlocke, former Outlaws and Charlie Daniels Band guitarist Mark Matejka, keyboardist and George Clinton collaborator Peter Keys, Damn Yankees drummer Michael Cartellone and former Billy Joe Shaver bassist Keith Christopher. It’s a stacked collection of talent with ties to the music Skynyrd aims to celebrate for one more tour.
A Classic Rock Circus’ Ring Leader
Rambunctious front man Johnny Van Zant, the younger brother of original singer Ronnie Van Zant, stole the show. The younger Van Zant drives the band as both its talented lead singer and energetic hype man. Throughout the night, he fed off the audience like a circus ring leader or babyface pro wrestler.