And This Bird You Cannot Change

November 19th, 2009

Lynyrd Skynyrd – The Wellmont Theatre – November 18, 2009

(Photo: Sean O’Kane)

(Photo: Sean O’Kane)

After more than 30 years in music, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Lynyrd Skynyrd has earned the right to have a boisterous stage setup. Before their set even started, the stage boasted two acoustic guitars, three keyboards, a piano, two drum sets worth of drums, four flat-screen televisions and a logo that spanned about 20 feet. When all nine touring members took the stage last night at The Wellmont Theatre, they proved just why they’ve earned it by unleashing a set of megahits during a loud and thrilling set lasting longer than an hour.

They played every hit, from the honky-tonk “Gimme Three Steps” to the sweeping ballad “Tuesday’s Gone” (during which raised lighters actually outnumbered cell phones) to the darker grit of “That Smell.” With hardly any material the band has released in the last decade, the night was dedicated to the biggest and best of Lynyrd Skynyrd. All three guitarists constantly rotated solos in practically every song, often dueling back-to-back. Vocalist Johnny Van Zant roamed the stage while belting out each song, either laughing with his bandmates or engaging the crowd by reaching his microphone stand (adorned with a Confederate flag for half the set) over the seats.

As the first few plucky notes of “Sweet Home Alabama” signaled the beginning of the end, the crowd (a mix of people in cowboy hats, American-flag-branded clothing and, of course, Derek Jeter jerseys) roared with delight. When the band finished, they turned their collective attention to one thing, and for the first time ever at The Wellmont Theatre, the crowd actually yelled for “Free Bird” in the correct setting. —Sean O’Kane