Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bad Company Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion July 11, 2013
While there have been numerous personnel changes over the years for both Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company, the songs were still there Thursday at the Woodlands Pavilion. That's all that mattered.
It was a night of drunken singalongs and fist-pumping, devil horns and American pride. It was the right level of cheesiness that could only be had right there.
The night started off with a co-headlining set by English rockers Bad Company. Three of the four original members of this rock "supergroup" are still alive and kicking, and had no trouble dropping hit after hit on the almost-full pavilion. Even if you don't regularly listen to Bad Company, you know the songs, and would have been singing along with everyone else who was with us last night.
Lead vocalist Paul Rodgers, who semi-successfully toured as the singer of Queen a couple years back, had no problem keeping the crowd entertained. While the entire band seemed a bit tired out of the gate, which is to be expected of any aging rockers, soon the crowd's energy brought Bad Company to life.
The set list read like an hour of classic-rock radio, with songs like "Rock and Roll Fantasy," "Feel Like Making Love," "Shooting Star" and "Ready For Love" peppered into the 13-song playlist. While the band is to the point where they're not changing anything up from night to night, certain parts of the set found the members improvising a bit.
Many of the songs were extended to allow every member of the five-piece band a chance to show off their chops, past just playing through the standard version. Rodgers bounced around stage twirling his mike stand like he was the drum major in a marching band, belting out each song like it was 40 years ago.
Dude looked good for his age, too. I would never guess that he's been on the road for four decades if you put me in a room with him not knowing who he was.
Bad Company closed their portion of the show with a very psychedelic version of their namesake tune, "Bad Company," followed closely by an unfamiliar acoustic tune. I think they kind of lost their crowd a bit by doing an encore as an opening act, especially closing with a song a majority of the crowd didn't know. Overall, though, the set was great, and could've been a great headlining set at any of our smaller venues throughout town. I would definitely rock out to BC again, given the opportunity.
After about a 45-minute set-break, some random guy came on the PA to announce the headliners were about to take the stage. All those folks who were emptying their bladders, or refilling them, rushed back into the pavilion just in time. In all my years of seeing music, I've never had the opportunity to catch a Skynyrd show, so I was pretty damn excited headed into this one.
Right out of the gate, the show was hot. Opening with the one-two punch of "What's Your Name" and JJ Cale's "Call Me The Breeze," Synyrd's performance already had tons more energy than their predecessors in Bad Company.
I didn't want to get caught up in the fact that only one original member of the band was still in it, or that it was never going to be the same without Ronnie Van Zant at the helm, I just wanted to hear the songs that I love performed to their best ability by the guys who do it for a living.
Ronnie's little brother Johnny (John Roy Van Zant), who's taken over the lead vocal duties since the mid-'80s, had no problem recreating his brother's tunes -- he sounded just like him, actually. And the rest of the band -- which consisted of founding member Gary Rossington, longtime player Rickey Medlocke and Houston native Mark Matejka on guitars, drummer Michael Cartellone, ex-P-Funk keyboard player Peter Keys and original Black Crowes bassist Johnny Colt -- were no slouches either. While the band is nowhere near the same as it originally was, Skynyrd has done a great job at picking a rock-solid touring band to bring their classic catalog to life.
The show was short and sweet, but stacked with hit after hit. "That Smell," "Saturday Night Special," "Simple Man," "Gimme Three Steps" and "Sweet Home Alabama" were all there, and played to perfection. Every song towards the end of the set could've served as the show closer, but only one did, the forever-requested "Freebird."
While the crowd liberally chanted "Freebird" without feeling like assholes, the band took their time to come back to stage. Soon, a spotlight was shining on a golden bird that was perched upon the stage, and Keys banged out the first couple of chords on a baby grand emblazoned with an eagle and the American flag.
The screen behind the band, which was showing old band montages throughout the show, now featured an eagle holding an American flag and the names of every former member of the band surrounding it. A bit cheesy, but a given. I was a bit unimpressed by this version of "Freebird," as it didn't have the energy of the rest of Synyrd's set, but it was still some bucket-list shit to stand on the lawn and belt that tune out as loud as can be with 15,000 other people.
The show was just as good as I could've expected, if not better, and those folks who made the trip out to the Woodlands on a Thursday night certainly got everything they paid for and more. If you can get past that you're seeing somewhat of a novelty act, I'd highly recommend catching the next Skynyrd show that comes your way. You won't be disappointed at all. Unless you're Neil Young.
Personal Bias: For more years than I can count, I drove around in my shitty little Escort, listening to classic rock on the radio while smoking the chronic with my high school buddies. I know almost every lyric to the songs played last night. But who doesn't, really?
The Crowd: Mostly older white folk with a healthy dose of mid-to-late 20 year olds thrown in.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Freebird!!!!" about 97,000 times.
Random Notebook Dump: To the lady who found my girlfriend's iPhone in the lawn, and did everything she could to get it back to us after the show, I want to say thank you. I don't know your name, or if you'll ever read this, but you're the shit!
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