Iconic Southern Rockers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, bid farewell to Western New York with a passionate and powerful swan song.
Review / photos by Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Darien, NY – It was a bittersweet moment for 15,000 plus music loving fans on this perfect summer evening, as Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame inducted, Southern rock pioneers, Lynyrd Skynyrd headlined the “Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour.” This concert was most likely the band’s very last time performing in Western New York, and it certainly turned out to be quite a memorable night. Also, featured on this evening was the legendary Charlie Daniels Band, Marshall Tucker Band and Jamey Johnson.
Since Lynyrd Skynyrd released their first record on August 13, 1973, the band has experienced some of the highest highs, with chart topping records and sold-out arena tours, and also suffered through some extremely tragic lows. The 1977 plane crash that claimed the lives of Ronnie Van Zant-vocals, and Steve Gaines – guitar derailed the band until 1987, when Van Zant’s brother- Johnny Van Zant reformed Lynyrd Skynyrd with original guitarist Garry Rossington, and three other classic lineup members.
Over their 40 year plus history, Lynyrd Skynyrd has had many great musicians spend time in the band. Currently, in addition to Van Zant, and Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s lineup is the most musically explosive one ever, consisting of: ex-Blackfoot guitarist Rickey Medlocke, ex-Damn Yankee’s drummer Michael Cartellone, Mark Matejka – guitar, Keith Christopher – bass and Peter Keys- keyboards.
It is becoming the norm for many of the great classic rockers from the 70’s and 80’s to embark on farewell tours, partly because they can no longer perform up to their standards. That’s not the case for Lynyrd Skynryd. On this evening, they were simply phenomenal. Their 90 minute set consisted of many of their biggest hits, performed with the intensity of a fresh, focused and hungry band.
The show kicked off with,”Workin’ for MCA,” and from there, the crowd never got off their feet, dancing in the aisles and singing back every word of every song. The stage had a cool design, centered around a huge video screen in which the fans in the very back could feel as if they were in the front row.
Lynyrd Skynryd is truly the band of the people, and one of the least pretentious bands around. They truly appreciate their fans spending their hard earned money to see them and they give them back all they have.
“We appreciate all the good years, Darien Lake,” declared Van Zant midway through as the band slammed into “Gimme Three Steps.”
Van Zant was very engaging throughout the evening, with a clear understanding of the political climate currently in the country, he was very careful not to take any sides. “Do you still believe in this great country?,” asked Van Zant. “We just have to all unite, because there is way too much shit going down,” he added to the roar of approval from the audience.
Throughout the evening, the guitar army of: Rossington, Medlocke and Matejka was beyond phenomenal. Many great guitarists have played in the band over the years, but this trio could very well be the most cohesive in the history of the band. All three brought it song after song, all evening long.
Skynyrd saved the best for last, with an emotional, powerful and haunting version of what many consider to be the greatest rock anthem of all-time, “Free Bird.” As pictures of past and current band members flashed across on the huge video screen behind the band, all the teary eyes in the audience tried to stay focused, knowing very well that this would be the last song that they would ever see Skynyrd perform.
Even though the band has played, “Free Bird” thousands of times, this performance was beyond spectacular. Rossington nailed his classic slide intro, and Melocke, again was god-like. His roaring note-for-note perfect rendition of the main solo part was mesmerizing. The audience held on to every last moment, hoping that the final one would never be played. But, when it was, all would agree that Lynyrd Skynyrd, poured every last ounce of energy that they had into this powerfully and moving last song of the evening.
Skynyrd may not be around for longer, but the memory of this concert is one that will live on, and certainly be talked about forever.
Thank you Lynyrd Skynryd for giving us all that amazing music and those great concert memories over the last 40 plus years. May the “Freebird,” soar the clear blue skies of this great nation forever.
Part 2, with photos of The Charlie Daniel Band, and Marshall Tucker Band can be viewed here.
Lynyrd Skynyrd setlist 07-13-2018
Workin’ for MCA
What’s Your Name
I Know a Little
Saturday Night Special
The Ballad of Curtis Loew
Don’t Ask Me No Questions
Gimme Three Steps
Call Me the Breeze
Sweet Home Alabama
Special thanks to the incredible crew at LiveNation for allowing us to cover this event.