Southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd played in Montclair, NJ last night, filling the newly restored venue with hoards of fans both old and young.
The current incarnation of Skynyrd, with guitarist Gary Rossington as the only full-time original member, still boasts an impressive pedigree, including original singer Ronnie Van Zant’s younger brother Johnny on vocals, and original drummer Rickey Medlocke now on lead guitar. Check back with Examiner.com this weekend for a preshow interview with Rickey as he discusses his musical influences, modern politics, Skynyrd history, and more.
The band, playing their fourth New York metro area appearance since August, opened with new song Skynyrd Nation, one of four new tunes that would be played over the night. The Wellmont Theater’s stage was heavily packed, as the band now consists of a staggering nine musicians filling out the classic triple guitar sound. Flatscreen TVs flashed Skynyrd images as singer Johnny Van Zant belted out songs old and new, and the audience of long time fans sang along to classic tunes such as Gimme Back My Bullets, Tuesday's Gone, That Smell, and the always poignant Simple Man, which Van Zant dedicated to US troops both home and overseas.
Newer tunes off Skynyrd’s freshly released album, God & Guns, also featured prominently in the setlist, and were well received by the crowd, especially the hard-rocking radio hit Still Unbroken. In another merging of the old and new, a noticeable amount of children were present in the audience, cheering right next to their proud parents, especially during the bands’ best known material such as Sweet Home Alabama as a new generation was introduced to one of the best-known rock bands of all time.
Of course, no Lynyrd Skynyrd concert would be complete without an encore performance of Free Bird, arguably the most famous encore song of all time. The band played the classic ballad with the same tight perfection they demonstrated the entire night, keyboardist Peter Keys hammering away at his piano while Medlocke shredded through the solo regularly voted to the top five of virtually every list of all-time best guitar, solo, or rock songs. Flatscreen TVs displayed the names of Skynyrd members who have passed away over the years, as all of the musicians powered their way through the heavy metal guitar climax of the song, Van Zant hoisting an American flag tied to his microphone stand high above his head as the audience roared in appreciation.
As Rickey Medlocke said earlier in the day, “Lynyrd Skynyrd may be called Southern rock, but really it’s American rock. We’re as American as can be.” Truly, last night’s performance demonstrated one of the last classic rock bands still touring and making new music, with no sign of slowing down. From first song to last, Skynyrd delivered a hard rocking concert that satisfied everyone, and made it clear that they plan to be around for a long time yet. While last night night's show was the fourth and final local appearance for 2009, expect the Skynyrd family to roll around again soon.