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America's most famous southern rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd is probably known as much for their tragic history as they are for their very identifiable sound. The band lost three members, Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines, along with their assistant tour manager, pilot and co-pilot in what has since become an infamous plane crash in 1977. Since that time, several other members have also passed away and misfortune seems to have dogged the band's various members and crew for many years. Yet, Lynyrd Skynyrd still endures, some forty odd years after they first began.
Grounded in blues and roots, their music is a blend of southern and hard rock and they do it better than anyone else.. Their concert at the Sydney Entertainment Centre (oops! Sorry, the Qantas Credit Union Arena... somehow that just doesn't roll off the tongue in quite the same way...) on Thursday night gave testimony to that. This was the band's first Australian tour and, brief as it was (they only played in Sydney and Melbourne), fans relished the opportunity to finally get a taste of that southern sound 'live' and they weren't disappointed. Johnny Van Zant, younger brother of the late Ronnie Van Zant, has been the band's lead singer since the band reformed in 1987. Now, with Ricky Medlocke, Mark Matejka and the only original member, Gary Rossington all filling out that big guitar sound Lynyrd Skynyrd is famous for, the band really couldn't miss. Along with Michael Cartellone on drums, Peter Keys on keyboards (how apt...) and the band's newest member, Johnny Colt on bass, Lynyrd Skynyrd is definitely a force to be reckoned with 'live'. And let's not forget the sweet tones of the Honkettes, Dale Krantz Rossington and Carol Chase on backing vocals, rounding the sound out nicely. Yes, I believe that does make nine members on stage.
The band opened with 'Workin' for MCA', and 'I Ain't the One' before launching into 'Last of a Dyin' Breed', the title track from their latest album.'Gimme Back My Bullets' and 'You Got that Right', had the crowd on their feet and in a zealous show of solidarity, there were Confederate flags waving throughout the arena. Singer Johnny van Zant impressed the crowd with an Australian flag also wrapped around his microphone stand. Nice touch... and it worked. There was a cover of J. J. Cale's 'Call Me the Breeze' before they closed the set with what is undoubtedly their best known hit, 'Sweet Home Alabama' a classic track from the seventies and one that will forever be synonymous with the name Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band returned to the stage for one encore, a song that the fans were all waiting for. As fans have come to expect from the band, they finished, with their usual extended version of 'Free Bird', a track from their debut album released in 1973.
Australian fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd have waited a long time to see their favourite band tour 'down under' and finally, in 2014, their patience has paid off. Hopefully it won't take quite so long for them to drop by again.
If you missed out on the show or if you were there and want to relive some of those moments, check out our great photos HERE
by Sharyn Hamey