Southern boogie bands, a declining commodity on the rock exchange, have seen better days. But if nothing else, the Johnny Van Zant band proved at the Bayou last night that Washington's Southern rock contingent is as strong and as vocal as ever.
Unfortunately, Van Zant (his brother, the late Ronnie Van Zant, headed up Lynyrd Skynyrd) did nothing to advance the music beyond its well-established borders. Although he sang with considerable power and authority -- despite a wretchedly hoarse voice -- many of his songs hardly seemed worth the effort. His own lyrics were riddled with the usual hard luck and trouble cliches; other tunes like the anthemic "Statesboro Blues" only reinforced the band's tradition-bound image.
Guitarists Robbie Gay and Erik Lundgren didn't help matters. More often than not they seemed content to echo the relationship between Skynyrd's guitarists, Rossington and Collins.
Still, the Van Zant band knows how to rock hard and steady. Once they've shed some influences, they'll be worth hearing in their own right.
The Sharp Turns, a local group, were clearly miscast as the opening act. Their kinetic, New Wave approach to rockabilly was barely tolerated by some members of the rebel-shouting crowd.