TVD Live Shots: Lynyrd Skynyrd at Wembley Arena, 6/29

When you think of Southern Rock, there’s really one band that comes to mind, and that’s the rebels of the south known as Lynyrd Skynyrd. Through tragedy and triumph across four decades, this band has not only defined the genre and carried the torch, but they inspired every generation after them to keep the spirit alive.

The band’s impact is even more impressive as it crossed over into pretty much every other genre on the planet. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the group No. 95 on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” and the following year the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced that Lynyrd Skynyrd would be inducted alongside Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, and the Sex Pistols. That’s some fucking good company to be in. Having never seen the band live, I thought I had better get off my ass and go see them in a proper arena, in London of all places.

Does southern rock ‘n’ roll translate across the pond? Holy shit, yes it does. How about a sold-out Wembley arena for starters? While technically there’s only one original member in the farewell line-up—the great Gary Rossington—that really doesn’t matter. There remains a bloodline and furthermore a legacy that has evolved and has continued to celebrate the most crucial element here: the songs. Johnny Van Zant does an excellent job of leading the pack while the triple guitar attack of Rickey Medlocke (who was absolutely on FIRE this night), Mark Matejka, and Rossington being second in command. The band was rounded out by piano, bass (I swear that was Johnny Colt from the Black Crowes?), one hell of a drummer, and two incredible backup singers elevating those southern style harmonies.

The setlist for the night pulled from the band’s rich catalog and left nothing unturned regarding the hits. The newer material sounded right at home as the formula for success and the mold for songwriting was never broken—it just continued to evolve. It’s the only time, and one of the last times, that it’s okay to yell out “Freebird” in between songs at a live performance, and I’m guessing that’s a thing reserved for the States as I didn’t hear anyone yell out the clichéd and played out joke. Skynyrd didn’t disappoint and finished with “Sweet Home Alabama” which sounded fantastic and a jaw-dropping “Purple Rain” type ending with the classic “Freebird” mentioned above.

It was quite an experience to witness the second to last ever European show from the last great rebels. They were gracious not only with their performance, but also with their humble words as they thanked the fans for their support over the years and rewarded them rightfully with the hits. I think that Lynyrd Skynyrd could easily go on for another 5 years plus, but it’s also smart to go out on a solid note protecting the treasured legacy.

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