For a bunch of southern rockstars in their 60’s, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hank Williams Jr. put on one fantastic performance.
The show took place at the Smoothie King Center, in New Orleans, on Friday, May 17.
Going into this concert, knowing that Hank Williams Jr. is just two weeks shy of 70-years-old, I expected him to move a little slower. I was expecting him to do a lot of sitting, and take longer breaks between songs. And boy was I far off!
Hank is a performer at heart… it runs in his blood and it seems that may be something that cannot be forgot. He started off strong and loud, with a spectacular light show. Highlights of his performance include a lengthy conversation with the audience about his dad, and growing up in a musically inclined family. Hank sat down at the piano, and explained what his dad did for a living. Hank Sr. was a song writer, and he was good at it. Jr. went on to tell the audience that among others, Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis were frequent visitors to his home. This led to him giving the audience a taste of each of these artists music, including I Walk the Line, Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On, and Your Cheatin Heart.
Hank went on to play All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over and All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down, to which he made up some interesting new lyrics. Hank mentions making ‘new’ rowdy friends, one being Troy Landry, star of the local television show Swamp People.
Something I noticed several people around us talking about, was that Hank changed his hat with every new song. Cowboy hats, fedoras, baseball caps, and more. at one point he sat down for two songs, and has a hat sitting on the ground next to him, so he could switch hats without getting up.
I secretly wonder if that’s how his band knows which song to play next… and speaking of his band, at one point, there were 14 people on stage. This includes Hank, a drummer, a pianist, five guitarists, and a number of stage runners.
The performance lasted one hour, and the full set list also included: Dinosaur, Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound, There’s a Tear in My Beer, A Country Boy Can Survive, Family Tradition, and Hey Good Lookin.
Hank Williams Jr. played, I believe, seven different instruments, and he rocked every one. I would say his show exceeded my expectations.
After a thirty minute set change, it was time for Lynyrd Skynyrd to take the stage in New Orleans for what may be the last time ever.
The band came out fast and strong with the 1977 hit, Workin for MCA. After a quick introduction from lead singer Johnny Van Zant, the band jumped right into Skynyrd Nation, off of their 2009 album, “God & Guns.”
Original band member Gary Rossington has still got it. He was up front and nearly center for the entire show, playing his heart out.
Other members of the band include Rickey Medlocke, Mark “Sparky” Matejka, Michael Cartellone, Johnny Colt, Peter Keys, and backup singers Dale Krantz Rossington and Carol Chase.
The nine member band got the crowd on their feet for their next song, What’s Your Name, followed by That Smell, You Got That Right, and I Know A Little.
A brief chat with the crowd, and they were onto their next song, Needle & Spoon, then Saturday Night Special.
The guitars strummed and the fans went wild for the next song. But first, a tribute, to the US Armed Forces. Van Zant asked for everyone to stand, and asked for any active duty or military veterans to make their presence known. The crowd cheered louder than they had all night, and the band played Red, White, and Blue. Without stopping, they went right into The Ballad of Curtis Loew.
At this point, I am shocked. I had no idea some of these songs belonged to this band. I, so far, had known at least a few words to every song that had been played. And to my true amazement, it didn’t stop there.
Tuesday’s Gone, Don’t Ask Me No Questions, and Call Me the Breeze followed the military tribute, and kept the crowd on their toes.
One of my all-time favorite songs came on next. It has been covered a dozen times, but no one beats Lynyrd Skynyrd singing Simple Man. Though originally sung by Ronnie Van Zant, his brother, Johnny did an amazing job. This was no surprise, as he has been doing the singing since 1987. The song was beautiful and I could tell the crowd was loving it. The sound quality was fantastic and the lighting set the mood perfectly.
A few guitar strums and the crowd was back on their feet. The intro is unmistakable and before he could even get the words out, the crowd was already yelling for Sweet Home Alabama. With a screaming crowd and tired band, the band thanked everyone and headed backstage.
But we weren’t fooled! We didn’t pay to see Lynyrd Skynyrd and not hear Free Bird. The crowd cheered, “Encore, encore, encore, encore,” and the band abides. We wanted that 10 extra minutes more than anything and it was worth it. Every cheer, every minute, every ounce of breath was worth it. Nine and a half minutes of Free Bird sent the crowd into an uproar and on that note, the band called it a night.
This show. This show goes into my top ten. This performance was astounding. The energy was always there. The dancing was there and the singing was there. Everything came together to make one incredible performance. From the lead vocals to the pianist to the five guitarists and the two backup singers. It was a night and musical performance to remember. And if this really is the last time Lynyrd Skynyrd ever performs in New Orleans, no one can say they were left unsatisfied.