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  • Writer's pictureBill Hernandez


The legendary Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd took fans on a ride through a discography studded with honky-tonk and hard rock at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood last night, ripping through mega-hits like “Gimme Three Steps” while highlighting deeper cuts like “Mississippi Kid.”

Over two hours after the doors opened, The band took the stage after AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” played over a montage of old photos of the band. When the song ended, the video switched to a loop of a record spinning, a fitting backdrop for the show’s opener, “Working for MCA.”

Skynyrd may have taken a while to come onto the stage, but once there, they weren’t wasting any time; not five seconds after the end of the first song, the boys jumped right into “What’s Your Name,” and continued at breakneck pace for the first 20 minutes of the show.

Hard Rock Live was packed and the crowd was surprisingly quiet through the first songs. After “Whiskey Rock ‘n’ Roller,” lead singer Johnny Van Zant jolted some energy into the crowd, yelling, “50 years of Lynyrd Skynyrd! Feels like 50 seconds!”

Original lead guitarist Gary Rossington is still recuperating from heart surgery, but told Van Zant to “go up to Hollywood and kick ass and take names.” Damon Johnson of Thin Lizzy filled in for the injured axeman, and fit in nicely with a band accustomed to personnel changes.

Before following Rossignton’s marching orders, Van Zant said, “Diehard Lynyrd Skynyrd fans, you know this one – sing it loud, sing it proud. All I can say is, ‘Been there, done that, and we’re not going back again.’”

The band launched into a moving performance of “That Smell.” They played with the passion of people who have lived through the dark scenes of addiction described in the song’s foreboding lyrics, and made it out to the other side.

This burst of energy was reciprocated by the crowd; Van Zandt encouraged audience members to sing the verse with him, and the venue roared to life.

The band kept up the momentum with a razor sharp performance of “Saturday Night Special,” which sounded even crisper than the original studio recording. Then it was right into “Tuesday’s Gone,” and fans swayed and sang as Van Zant dedicated the piano solo to deceased Skynyrd keyboardist Billy Powell.

Van Zant calls the shots on stage, everything hinges on his cues and conducting – he is the spitting image of his big brother and Skynyrd founder, Ronnie Van Zant. When Van Zant tells the crowd to cheer, he screams it, furious, demanding his fans to rise to the occasion of a true rock ’n roll show.

And just like the original front man, Johnny’s eclectic personas shift to match the content of the song he’s performing. First, he is a whiskey guzzling, whore-housing highwayman when singing “Mississippi Kid.” Then the next second, performing “Red, White, and Blue,” Van Zant becomes a God-fearing, America loving, military respecting, “Simple Man”. This show is a must-see for any music fan. Believe me, you won't be disappointed.


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