When all is said and done – and the time comes to hang up the guitar and microphone – all a band has left is its legacy and few bands have a more profound and influential legacy then Lynyrd Skynyrd.
On Friday night – the band brought their farewell tour to a near capacity Blossom crowd – and what followed was an outpouring of love and respect both for the band’s current line up and for the members that passed in that horrible plane crash in 1977 – as well as other survivors who have since passed.
Original guitarist Gary Rossington is still with the band – as is longtime member Rick Medlocke and on lead vocal Johnny Van Zandt who has been the ringleader since the band reformed and started touring again in 1987 – an impressive three-decade run.
I didn’t make it to the venue to catch the first two openers but I did make it to my seat in time for Blackberry Smoke – a band who was not on my radar in any way but after watching this incredibly strong opening set – they are certainly now in my play rotation. And impressive and short, tight set that left the crowd wanting more – that’s the way to leave them.
After a quick stage change – Skynyrd was on the stage and jamming before the crowd knew what hit them and what followed was a roughly 17 song set that hit all the high points of the bands fore mentioned legacy.
A tour de force of sing-along favorites lit the crowd up. What’s Your Name, That Smell, Tuesday’s Gone, Gimme Three Steps, Simple Man – each and every song a classic and with each song the crowd grew louder and more excited – everyone knew what was coming – hell, it’s the reason most were there but before we got the rock anthem – the band played the opening notes of Sweet Home Alabama and the place literally exploded. I mean, who doesn’t know Sweet Home Alabama? I hazard to guess that there was not one person who was not singing along.
But Sweet Home Alabama was just a primer for the big moment – the final time an NEO crowd could be treated to a live performance of a song that is rock royalty – with the opening notes of Free Bird – Blossom Music Center officially went into overdrive. The band played an amazing, emotional rendition of the song with the mandatory jam at the end going on for what seemed like a day and a half. Rossington and Medlocke exchanging blistering licks back and forth. The closest thing to rock magic you’ll likely ever witness or hear.
Only two words needed to describe it – truly outstanding!
Something tells me that we haven’t seen the last of Lynyrd Skynyrd – this current farewell tour goes well into 2019 and members of the band have stated that some Vegas shows – perhaps even a residency might be in their future. Old rockers don’t retire – they just make you come to them – so the music and legacy of Ronnie Van Zandt and all who have played a part in that legacy “shall fly free as a bird – and that bird you cannot change.”
In a Cleveland concert summer that has been filled with unforgettable moments – this show takes and holds a special place.