Niagara Gazette

August 14, 2013

Lynyrd Skynyrd hits all the right notes in return to Artpark

By Thom Jennings ngedit@niagara-gazette.com
Night & Day

Night & Day — Lynyrd Skynyrd hit the Artpark stage at 8 p.m. sharp with “Call Me the Breeze,” and as Johnny Van Zant sang the line “ain’t no change in the weather,” people looked on in their sweatshirts on the chilly and overcast August evening.

Van Zant quickly acknowledged it was nice to be back at Artpark and commented he liked the improvements made since their previous show at the venue two years ago.

The weather and the venue enhancements were not the only thing different this time around, and If there was one lesson learned with the show, it was that the ticket system works. The venue was full but not uncomfortable; the crowd was well behaved, angelic in comparison to the throngs that invaded Artpark two years ago.

Perhaps the strangest scene was a huge line for coffee close to the nearly empty beer line. It was a terrible night to be an ice cream vendor as well.

For their part, Skynyrd delivered a set of southern rock classics with precision. The first hour of the show was a parade of FM rock radio staples like “What’s Your Name”,”Gimme Back My Bullets” and “That Smell.”

The production values this time around were better as well. The band appeared in front of a large video screen that projected images of classic Skynyrd albums and other interesting visuals.

The band itself is interesting to watch as well; the band members have an innate sense where to position themselves on stage for the greatest impact. Through it all the current lineup manages to stay unified musically in way that the original lineup could not have because of their short time together.

As Lynyrd Skynyrd celebrates their 40th anniversary it is interesting to note how short of a period that original lineup was around, from 1973 to 1977. In that time they produced five albums, four went Platinum and one went Gold. The seven released since 1987 have not seen nearly the same success and they rarely include more than one or two new songs in their set.

While some bands don’t subscribe to the notion that there are songs that they have to play, I don’t think that anyone could imagine Lynyrd Skynyrd not closing out a show with “Sweet Home Alabama” and then returning to play “Freebird” as an encore.

In spite of the fact that everyone knows it’s coming, “Freebird” remains a powerful song, and the ultimate closing number. On this cold night in August as the band blasted through the instrumental part the wind seemed to pick up, creating an odd chill.

Right before that, the screen behind them projected the names of all the band members associated with Skynyrd that have passed away, and it is a staggering number of people when you see the full list.

Nevertheless, this band is doing a great job continuing a musical legacy, and while they have had their share of lineup changes over the years, having Van Zant and Gary Rossington onstage together makes it genuine enough.

In the words of their song, “Tuesday’s Gone,” but it doesn’t appear like Skynyrd is going anywhere soon. Let’s just hope that the next time they come through town with a change in the weather it’s a little warmer.

Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day.