Lynyrd Skynyrd

Live from Freedom Hall

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With the dust and the haze of the decades cleared, it’s now apparent that Lynyrd Skynyrd in their original configuration were one of the greatest rock bands to come out of the South, or anywhere in America for that matter, and the band’s legacy, based around classic songs like “Sweet Home Alabama” and the iconic, ever-unwinding “Free Bird,” is assured. Skynyrd were also one of the most haunted of American bands as well, and the litany of deceased members is a long one -- original lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines died in 1977, guitarist Allen Collins died in 1990, bassist Leon Wilkeson died in 2001, replacement bassist Ean Evans died in 2009, as did keyboardist Billy Powell. The group that currently tours and records as Lynyrd Skynyrd features only one original member, guitarist Gary Rossington, with Ronnie's brother Johnny Van Zant handling lead vocals and former Blackfoot frontman Rickey Medlocke heading up the guitarists. The current band does a good job of creating a Skynyrd facsimile in concert but hasn’t fared quite so well as a creative unit, and the heart of the group's shows still consists of the classic old Skynyrd tunes penned by the original band. That said, now essentially a tribute band to the original band that bears the name, the current configuration manages to walk the fine line between actually being Lynyrd Skynyrd and sounding like Lynyrd Skynyrd. This two-disc set (a CD with a DVD of the same set) preserves a concert the band did on June 15, 2007 at Freedom Hall in Louisville, KY, one of the last shows with both Evans and Powell. Luckily it was a good night, and this is a fine live set, anchored by crisp versions of Skynyrd staples like “What’s Your Name,” “That Smell,” “Gimme Three Steps,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and “Free Bird,” and if Johnny Van Zant doesn’t quite have the same sassy soul as his brother Ronnie did, he comes close enough to make all of this work. It’s nice, too, that pianist Powell is up in the mix here, because he was much more central to Skynyrd's (generally thought of as a guitar band) sound than most folks realize. He won’t be easy to replace, but then this is a band that is increasingly defined by its classic songs more than it is by its particular lineup on a given night -- “Free Bird” is “Free Bird,” after all.

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