The band, which has tragically lost many members, rocks its hit-filled catalog for those not in line for beer.
Published: Aug. 9, 2014 Updated: Aug. 10, 2014 12:28 p.m.
|Lynyrd Skynyrd early in its set on Aug. 8, 2014.|
While a number of classic rock acts have survived the loss or departure of key members, few have confronted that challenge with the grit of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
At the height of the band’s popularity in October 1977, a plane crash took the lives of original singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, singer Cassie Gaines, the flight crew and other group associates; band members Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, Leon Wilkeson, Billy Powell and Artimus Pyle, and several others on the flight were seriously injured.
When the survivors walked to a nearby Mississippi farmhouse looking for help, they were reportedly greeted by residents with guns threatening them, furthering adding to the misfortune.
That crash appeared to put an end to the Jacksonville, Florida-bred ensemble, but just over a decade later the surviving members of the band teamed up with Johnny Van Zant (the younger brother of Ronnie) to begin recording and touring again.
On Friday night (August 8, 2014), there were two Lynyrd Skynyrd concert experiences that played out before a near-capacity crowd at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa.
For hard-core followers of the band aware of the band’s heartbreaking path (Collins died of pneumonia in January 1990, Powell died of heart failure in 2009), there is the legacy of an influential Rock and Roll Hall of Fame outfit that helped develop and commercialize Southern rock. Sadly, for many in the crowd the concert was simply a party-minded backdrop to go on endless beer runs while waiting for the band to perform its most iconic songs at the end of the 70-minute set.
For the discerning listeners at the Pac Amp, the good news is that the 2014 version of Lynyrd Skynyrd prides itself on celebrating the band’s 40-year legacy via mostly inspired takes on the group’s classic material.
Early in the night, “Call Me the Breeze” was offered up in a lush arrangement with keyboardist Peter Keys playing pretty on the piano while fast-moving video images projected in the background reinforced the lyrical spirit of the song. The combination of well-known material, artful video images and solid music-making was an approach that worked throughout the concert, notably on “Simple Man,” a beautiful song used by the band to celebrate those who serve in the U.S. military.
The use of technology doesn’t mean the 21st-century version of Skynyrd doesn’t rock. Cuts like “That Smell” and “Gimme Three Steps” provided perfect opportunities for Rossington, Rickey Medlocke and Mark “Sparky” Matejka to lock in for the distinguishing three-guitar attack long associated with the group. And those wanting to get a healthy dose of Rossington’s celebrated fretwork were treated to several sweet solos on “Tuesday’s Gone.”
|Lynyrd Skynyrd fired up the faithful in Costa Mesa.|
Throughout the heavy-on-the-hits show, Van Zant would venture to the edge of the stage to greet fans and often thank them for their support.
The “two” concert experiences – the one for Skynyrd enthusiasts and the one for the party-minded folks – finally converged at night’s end. With a powerful “Sweet Home Alabama” and set-ending 12-minute version of “Freebird,” one could see why the band’s music was such an original and powerful force in the 1970s.
|Jeramiah Red impressed in the band's first-ever|
performance at the Pacific Amphitheatre on Friday.
Orange County's own Jeramiah Red celebrated its burgeoning career as the night’s well-deserved opener, performing a muscular 30-minute set of memorable originals bound by a mighty hybrid of American and British blues, alt-country and indie rock. Opening with a rousing “Line ’em Up,” the band also hit hard with “My Baby.” The group closed with a fiery reading of its explosive “Can’t Help Myself,” which included the group morphing its song into a good-sized chunk of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”