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HMV Hammersmith Apollo, London 3 June 2012
Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend, in a small corner of West London it was
confederate flags rather than union flags that were the order of the
day, as Southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd paid their third visit to
these shores in four years.
In fact, in
a neat piece of symmetry, not only were the Red White and Blues
supporting, but Red White and Blue is a Skynyrd anthem, though sadly
and Blues, who reunite Skin guitarist Myke Gray with his former
Jagged Edge singer and now bassist Matti Alfonzetti, were given just
over half an hour in the latest of a series of high profile support
time, bluesy hard rock make them perfect support fodder and the set got
better as it went on with the elegant ballad 'Counts For Nothing'
contrasting with a rockier trio of closing tracks in 'Red White and
Blues', with plenty of slide guitar, 'Long Way From Home' and the
straight ahead anthem 'Stand Up For Rock n Roll'. But playing with a
muddy sound on a stage near surrounded in darkness, I felt it will take
a headline show to showcase them at their best.
point out that from the original pre-plane crash Lynyrd Skynyrd,
there is now virtually no-one left, but there is not much that can be
done about the Grim Reaper's march, and this line up has now been
treading the boards for over 20 years, albeit with more casualties along
in a polished, professional show with the music slickly drilled yet
pretty faithful to the intricacies of the original. The show is
perfectly choreographed and paced to perfection, with Johnny Van Zant
the diminutive frontman winning over the crowd with his southern charm.
openers 'Workin For MCA' and 'I Ain't The One', it is clear that the
triple guitar attack that is Skynyrd's trademark is in good form.
member Gary Rossington, whose Gibson guitar has a wonderfully slow,
almost mournful, feel to it, is rather rooted to his spot but that is
more than compensated for by the movements of Ricky Medlocke, whose hair
is now in a silvery top knot, but whose guitar playing is easily the
fieriest of the trio and gives the sound a sharper edge, and Mark
Matejka, now firmly established as a big part of the triple guitar
sound, even though I still cannot get the Robbie Savage comparisons out
of my head.
me they sell themselves short with a very predictable set list which has
barely varied for years. The reformation line up has made several albums
- both 2003 'Vicious Cycle' and 2009's 'Gods And Guns' were excellent,
despite the latter's hokey lyrics, and a new album is planned this year
- and yet you would hardly know it from a set rooted entirely in the
seventies, other than the self-referencing 'Skynyrd Nation' three songs
in. If Skynyrd fans are really the best in the world as Johnny claimed,
it might be nice to treat us with a few obscurities or unexpected cuts.
But with a
back catalogue that surely would have made them all-time greats had fate
not intervened, it would be churlish to complain too much, with
highlights including the guitar attack of 'That Smell', 'I Know A
Little' with honky tonk piano from Peter Keys (sic) and the sinister
sounds of 'Saturday Night Special'.
that they were playing some extra songs just for the London audience,
Johnny then introduced a medley, although to be fair they sounded to me
like near full length versions of 'Gimme Back My Bullets', 'Whiskey Rock
n Roller', 'Needle and the Spoon' - with some superbly aggressive
soloing from Ricky - and 'Tuesday's Gone' with some marvellous guitar
work from Gary.
From then on
in, as at every Skynyrd show since time immemorial, the tried and tested
boogie of 'Gimme Three Steps', 'Call Me The Breeze' and 'Sweet Home
Alabama' progressively got a near sell out crowd rocking out and singing
along to every word, Johnny further currying favour by brandishing a
returned to a backdrop of a giant American eagle, it was inevitable that
Johnny would invoke the words of late brother Ronnie and ask 'what song
is it that you wanna hear'?
how overplayed it is, 'Freebird' is still a thing of wonder, especially
in the live environment as Gary's slow slide guitar passages give way to
an explosion of aggressive soling from Ricky, and a frenzied jam between
him and Mark, and a great moment when the lights dim and then come back
on again to reveal them still trading solos.
At an hour
and 35 minutes it was very much a lowest common denominator of a
greatest hits set. But to see one of the classic rock back catalogues
delivered with such quality and showmanship by these gentleman
southerners is always a privilege.
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