I have been a Skynryd fan for a number of years but for one reason or another never got around to seeing them. Well worth the wait and I have a number of things to say on various fronts.
The Xfinity Center (aka Great Woods and a whole bunch of other names) is a 20,000 seat amphitheater about 36 miles (58km) SW of Boston. I’ve been there a number of times and despite some hassles (I’ll get to that) it is a great place to hear and see a show.
There were four bands on the bill: Wild Adriatic, Marshall Tucker Band, .38 Special and Skynyrd. Adriatic had already played early so we missed them. After buying food, we came in and saw maybe 15 minutes of Marshall Tucker Band. Too bad. I wish I’d seen a lot more. These guys are really good, really tight and I have always dug their music.
I found this video from like, a week ago. It’s long but displays some of their virtuosity. I would definitely go see them again.
So now we come to .38 Special. Truthfully, I didn’t even recognize them when they came out. Never been a fan. I don’t remember seeing them on the bill so maybe a last-minute addition? This band was formed a few years after Skynrd by another Van Zant brother, Donnie who apparently left the band amicably a few years back. (Ronnie died in the plane crash and Johnny has been Skynryd’s singer for a number of years now.)
Here’s the pro of .38 Special – these guys are extremely tight, very proficient players and put on a good show. Here’s the con – by and large their songs suck. It is that type of rock that is just about my least favorite – anthemic, generic arena rock.
Sample lyric – “My heart deserves a second chance.” Really? How many Hallmark cards did you have to discard till you got to that guys? Man, these guys would be great if their songs weren’t so shitty. I was sick of them after 1/2 hour but they kept on playing. Anyway, enough about them.
Finally, we come to Mr. Lynyrd J. Skynrd. Their show started out with a cartoon graphic of a radio going up and down the dial looking for something good. So, little snippets of bands like Seger, ZZ Top, etc. Cute.
Then they came blazing out with a big Skynryd insignia behind them and a terrific light show. Hokey? Sure. But that’s show biz.
The first song they did was “Workin’ for MCA,” a tribute (not) to that record company. Boy they sounded great – supertight. The whole band kicks ass and Van Zant is a great frontman. The only original member of the band remaining (the guy in the red jacket if you mouse over the picture) is Gary Rossington. (Who survived the `1977 crash but broke just about every bone in his body.)
Not to obsess over the crash but boy, the band sure doesn’t shy away from it. Just before they came on, they showed a video in which that was the first thing the voiceover mentioned! Geez, I thought. Well, it turns out it was a preview of a Showtime documentary that premieres on August 18 called Lynryd Skynrd: If I Leave Here Tomorrow.
The setlist was varied, largely concentrating on their Seventies stuff. My son, who was with me, asked if they had had any post-crash hits. I had to check that out and the answer is no, not really. There are a few newer ones in their setlist but I wouldn’t say that they – or for that matter Southern rock – rule the radio these days.
Speaking of that, there has always been a connection between Skynyrd and Allmans. They used to follow the Allmans around the South and watch them play. After Duane’s death, they started dedicating “Free Bird” to him. But really, time has gone by and the only acknowledgment was a brief shot of them in a kaleidoscopic video of bands they like. And isn’t it interesting that a band that was declared dead in 1977 has outlived the Allmans?
Anyway, back to the show. So did I take videos? Are you kidding? Is Boston Irish? (Well, you wouldn’t necessarily know that but it is.)
Here’s “What’s Your Name.”
They did the great “I Know a LIttle” but I missed the beginning. I’ve been playing this intro on the gee-tar lately. Superfast but a great, great intro. I couldn’t find any “live” ones that didn’t go on forever or have them saying “How you feelin’ tonight?” for 25 minutes so here’s the studio version.
Here’s “Gimme Three Steps,”a cautionary tale about getting a head start when you’re caught messing with some other man’s woman:
And so then the time came for an encore. Hmm, what will it be I asked Sonny Boy?
And to my surprise and chagrin, instead of coming out and doing a hard-charging epic version of “Free Bird,” they brought out their acoustic guitars, a guy with a flute and a woman with a harp. And then they sat down and did a medley of Peter, Paul and Mary songs – “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” “Puff the Magic Dragon.” What’s going on? ………..
I’ll tell you what’s going on. I am totally fucking with you. They came out and smoked their way through a kick-ass, all-time version of “Free Bird,” a song I’ve wanted to hear live for, well, a long time. “Now I can die happily,” I told Sonny Boy. I didn’t record it as I wanted to enjoy it sans camera in my face. You can dial a version up anywhere. This one ran about 10 -11 minutes as, if it were any longer and they’d run into a curfew.
Great show, totally loved it, check the box.
Now, a few days after attending, I got a survey email from some guy at the venue wanting to know how I enjoyed the experience. Well, I enjoyed the band. As to the outrageous ticket prices, I don’t think Xfinity is entirely blameless but I largely blame TicketScumbag. And Live Nation. An unfettered monopoly.
But I told him that I was not particularly happy with my parking options – free parking but wait for (at least) an hour before leaving (too many cars) or pay $50 (43 Euros)for Premier parking. We opted for the latter. (I paid for concert tix, Nick paid for parking.)
Did I enjoy the sausage that, for 10 bucks, came in a hot dog roll roughly half the size of the ones I get at Fenway? The piece de resistance? $13.50 (12 Euro) for a Heineken. Despite the barmaid giving me five ones I did not give her a tip. She didn’t create the problem but I am not adding one dollar to that tab. There is no excuse whatsoever for that shit. Sorry Xfinity. You can’t gouge me and expect a good review.
Would I go back to Xfinity? Sure. The one tune I liked by .38 Special was a cover of a Chicago tune! And so I’d like to see them. But next time I grab food before going in.
Workin’ for MCA
What’s Your Name
I Know a Little
Saturday Night Special
Red, White, & Blue
The Ballad of Curtis Loew
Don’t Ask Me No Questions
Gimme Three Steps
Call Me the Breeze
Sweet Home Alabama