Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert Thursday night at ParkWest. Opening was The Rossington Band. One show only.
When advertisements for a Lynryd Skynyrd concert starting airing, I was taken aback. Wasn't this the band that was silenced by a plane crash in Mississippi 10 years ago?True, there was a tragic crash that killed Ronnie Van Zant, the lead singer and songwriter. However, most of the band members survived. That wasn't enough to keep the band going, though - in a sense, Lynyrd Skynyrd died with Van Zant.
Fans continued to buy albums, and radio stations played their songs well into the 1980s. Because the enthusiasm didn't subside even a decade later, the Tribute Tour was born. The original band members regrouped temporarily for a nationwide tour, with Van Zant's brother Johnny stepping in as lead singer.
I was skeptical. No two voices are alike, and there was little chance Johnny could make the songs sound the same as the old Skynyrd. But I was pleasantly surprised by the likeness. Johnny Van Zant's voice was remarkably similar to his brother's. Not exactly the same, but close. It was a bit deeper, more rich, like someone had turned the tone knob down to low while playing a Skynyrd recording. But Johnny was well practiced. And it all seemed to come back for the band members after 10 years; the music - guitars, drums, horns - was verbatim to the old stuff.
The band's biggest hits sounded crisp and fresh. "Sweet Home Alabama," "That Smell" and "What's Your Name" brought roars of approval. An encore with "Free Bird" also paid tribute to original band member Allen Collins, who wrote the song. Collins couldn't play because he is recovering from a car accident.
Lynyrd Skynyrd's alumni have released an album, "Legend," but the band has no plans to stay together after the tour. Most members will resume their own musical pursuits.
Of course, it's only natural to compare the Tribute Band with the Skynyrd of the late '70s. But no matter for any inconsistencies. The whole tone of the evening was lively and upbeat. The point was to pay tribute to what the band calls the "greatest southern rock 'n' roll band ever."
Opening was The Rossington Band, a fitting prelude to Skynyrd. The band, from Jackson Hole, Wyo., features Gary Rossington, an original Skynyrd guitarist, and his wife, Dale, who sings lead vocals. She gave the music its distinctiveness with a somewhat brusque and scratchy voice, but pleasing. In trying to start the evening positively, she repeatedly discouraged fighting among fans. They were there to have fun.