Review and Photos by Phil BonyataLynyrd Skynyrd's boogie-laden, blues infused brand of "Southern Rock" officially died in that fateful, privately chartered, plane crash on October 20th, 1977 which claimed the lives of lead singer, songwriter and founder Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and vocalist Cassie Gaines. The soul of the band went up in flames along with the plane's wreckage.
Playing the last night of Country Thunder USA in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin last night, the "new" Lynyrd Skynyrd were here to churn out the classic hits - new material be damned - at least that's what many in the audience probably thought.
In 1987 younger brother Johnny Van Zant was called in to fill the giant shoes of his talented brother. Johnny might understand that he needs to do his best to mimic his brother as best he can and not try to establish his own signature. The back catalog is too daunting to try to change or even tweak. But, still rote rendition time after time make for heavy eyelids. Johnny might have thought he ascended the throne only to find that royality's nepotism doesn't always produce another king.
Skynyrd still might be playing for the love of the music and for the fans who have loved and embraced them for so long, but the reek of cheap nostalga rang through the air. Opening with "Workin' For MCA" the bands' open feelgood approach felt sugary and castrated - a contradiction that this latest version will always have to live with. Van Zant looking the brotherly part - roamed the stage as a mime secretly wishing for his older brother to give him some kind of sign to be free - to finally be himself.
The hits came in a rapid succession medley: "I Know a Little," "Gimme Three Steps" and the obligatory "Free Bird" helped the fattened crowd feel that it's safer to rewind then fast forward.
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