For the first time in a very long time, New Mexico was blessed by the presence of Southern rock legend Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Sandia Casino Amphitheater on Sunday night. The musicians kept the capacity crowd on its feet with their trademarked three-guitar American rock.
Skynyrd played patented Southern-fried rock ‘n’ roll, including fan favorites, “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Mr. Saturday Night Special” to get the crowd riled up, as well some of my favorites, such as “Gimme Back My Bullets,” “Gimme Three Steps” — actually they’re all my favorites, so it’s hard for me to name them all. I was disappointed when the band played “That Smell” because they changed some of the lyrics of the song for one reason or another. But, on the other hand, it was still Skynyrd, and it still rocked to no end.
One of the most touching and heartfelt moments of the concert was when the band dedicated the song, “Simple Man,” (which is my favorite of their songs — no really) to their most recently fallen bandmate, Leon Wilkeson.
Wilkeson, who was one of the members who survived the band’s plane crash in 1977, died in July of last year of natural causes. The tribute included a huge banner with Wilkeson’s likeness behind the band. New bassist Ean Evans has a likeness of Wilkeson on the back of both of his bass guitars.
The current seven-man setup contains only two of the original Skynyrd members, guitarist Gary Rossington and keyboardist Billy Powell. Joining the group for this tour are former Blackfoot guitarist Rickey Medlocke and Hughie Thomason, formerly of The Outlaws, also on guitar. Evans, like I mentioned, took over for Wilkeson on bass, Michael Cartellone on the drums, and Johnny Van Zant, the younger brother of Ronnie Van Zant, the original singer, who passed away in that fateful plane crash.
The band played all the originals and displayed the Confederate flag without worry about political correctness, in true Skynyrd style — showing people that the Confederate flag isn’t only a symbol of hate but of heritage in some cases.
Of course, like any smart musical act, the band saved the best song for last. After playing through an entire set, the revamped Skynyrd left the stage, without having played the ultimate rock ballad, “Freebird.” And, of course, like any good crowd would do, everyone began chanting in unison “Freebird! Freebird!” and no one left until the band gave them what they wanted.
For a band that has been making music for 30 years and has had 20 different members, Skynyrd certainly makes you believe that Southern rock will never die.