By Brent Michael, Rock At Night Tampa Correspondent
Venue: Busch Gardens, Tampa, Florida
If you don’t know any Lynyrd Skynyrd songs, you must have been on a deserted island for the last 40 years. One piece of good news: Gary Rossington, the sole surviving member of the original band, is not dead despite the internet rumors! The current lineup also includes longtime members Rickey Medlocke, Johnny Van Zant, Michael Cartellone, Mark Matejka, Peter Keys, and Johnny Colt (the man of many hats)
With a catalog of over 60 albums, sales beyond 30 million worldwide, a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this cultural icon still appeals to all generations ñ I spoke with a young couple, ages 21 and 23, who had been fans since childhood. They played all their rock anthems: “Sweet Home Alabama”, “That Smell”,”Saturday Night Special”,”Gimme Back My Bullets”,”Simple Man”,”Don’t Ask Me No Questions”, “What’s Your Name”,”You Got That Right”,”Gimme Three Steps”, and of course the encore/finale, a nearly ten minute “Freebird” with a light show that surpassed anything I’ve seen at Busch to date in the Gwazi plaza.
Politics? Yeah, the expected red, white, and blue theme, the ironic Confederate Flag “Heritage Not Hate” defensiveness, the jingoistic politics you might expect from simple men ñ but the music cuts across all lines, because every guy can relate to needing those three steps, we’ve all known someone on that downward path who has that smell, and like most in the industry, I’ll never deny the quality of anyone’s music on the basis of their politics. Lynyrd Skynyrd still has that original three-guitar attack sound, those live female backing vocals, and even brought in a harmonica player for one song because the one thing that never changes about them is they’re authentic. They were a proud Southern Band back when the Vietnam protests were common, and they’re the same band now that the protests are Black Lives Matter or Marching for Science!
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When not in custody, I've been involved with music, photography, and writing my entire life. Ever since I was a young boy and played those silver tunes, I've had the beat, but being a drummer didn't suit me so I became a lead singer, which lasted a few years. Settling down, sort of, I translated my knowledge of audio and glib tongue into mobile emcee work, and my training as a photographer and videographer into a living in the wedding, party, bar/bat mitzvah, and entertainment industry. During this time I also managed to bamboozle my way into a master's degree in writing, worked for a couple of magazines (yes, I took photos for a nudist magazine!), have photographed hotels, done commercial work (shot the cover of Tablet and Capsule magazine), published a few articles, hosted some public access shows (a couple times in drag, but that's another story), and generally made a nuisance of myself until I landed here.