Fall of 2018 has become something of a southern rock nostalgia trip for me. Seeing the new school and old school southern rock bands lately has been nothing short of spectacular. I saw the Canadian based Glorious Sons not long ago, showing the love for southern style rock is alive and well even in the most unexpected places. And now, I have witnessed a couple of the founders of the genre doing what they do best. A style of music which like much of classic rock as a whole has undergone a concerning shift with it’s fan following but as it turns out, those fans aren’t going anywhere fast. On Friday I witnessed an Xcel Energy Center packed to the brim with fans, old and young, blue and white collar, country born or suburban based, veterans, doctors, mechanics, college students, cowboys, hipsters, the list could go on. But it was clear to me that Lynyrd Skynyrd is one of those bands which has managed to span numerous demographics over multiple generations and stay true to their sound. A band that has overcome damaging loss of it’s original members, years of touring, and a changing music scene rocked the Xcel. And I finally got to witness the legend of Sweet Home Alabama live. One thing I must throw out before forgetting is a shout out to both bands for their philanthropy this week while in Minnesota. I was informed by a source after the show that not only had the bands visited the children’s hospital locally but have donated to help Children’s continue helping kids and their families, thank you!
But, before Skynyrd Nation got to have its moment the stage belonged to Bad Company. Now I am going to be completely honest. This was not the first time I had seen a band and thought “who the hell is this opener”. But it was one of the times I felt absolutely stupid for forgetting who the opener was. I grew up listening to tapes in the car of Bad Company, Seger, Doobie Brothers and others. Maybe one of the reasons I didn’t recall the band off the bat was that songs like Shooting Star and Feel Like Making Love don’t exactly resonate when you’re 11 and have minimal understanding of life’s bigger concepts. But, I definitely remember hearing the song Bad Company in the car on more than a few occasions. Can’t forget a piano intro like that too easily.
Bad Company got the show off to a great start and the crowd was ready for the main act to come on. This was a show where I was as anxious for the headliners as the crowd, but I would say more so even. When you see so many shows and particularly when you have to be “on” for taking photos you lose some perspective to the moment at times. And then comes a show like this one where you cannot miss the energy and passion the fans have. The moment that the intro video and music began as homage was paid to the southern rock classic you could feel the entire arena’s energy rise. Surpassing all the years and experiences anyone had had since Skynyrd Nation came to be, everyone was as excited as ever for this show. The hair on my neck stood at one point, as I thought “maybe these people will not notice the young guy amongst them who’s late to the party?”. Nobody noticed luckily.
Another confession, I totally creeped on the setlist for this show before hand. I know, not the most fun way to experience a show but I HAD to know. Will I hear Free Bird?, yes yes I did. And it was glorious. Free Bird, Simple Man, Saturday Night Special, and Sweet Home Alabama. They all were on the setlist for this farewell tour show and I couldn’t have been happier. You think you’re ready to hear a song live before a show, and then the moment comes when you hear those special opening chords and you realize you couldn’t have been ready. Opening to Sweet Home Alabama? Not. Ready. The place went crazy and rightly so. Looking around the arena and seeing nobody on their phones, nobody leaving late in the show, nobody sitting(nobody sat once Lynyrd took the stage by the way), and everyone just loving the moment it was amazing.
Like many bands I wish I’d been born decades before to see Lynyrd Skynyrd at their peak while they rocked the Coliseum in Cali and other epic venues. But this show and farewell tour will more than do in that absence. I found myself among loving fans who truly were present to pay homage to the band, members current and too soon lost, and to tip their hat to music that has played a crucial part in so many of our lives and music experiences. 2 hours had passed when I left, ears ringing, eyes glossed over from a long day, and my music appetite completely filled. It was a pleasure Lynyrd Skynyrd. Thank you for your music, your passion, and the memories. Southern Rock will definitely live on thanks to your influence on the younger generations.