It's been 10 years since the plane crash that killed three of Lynyrd Skynyrd's members, thus ending a significant chapter in Southern rock. As part of its first tour since then, the band appeared last night at the Capital Centre in potent form, pumping out the same sour mash romps that cut through the frothy middle-'70s music scene like a shot of Jack Daniel's through milk.
To their credit, the new Skynyrd avoided pithy oratories about deceased members Ronnie Van Zandt and Steve and Cassie Gaines. Instead, the new lineup, which includes Van Zandt's brother Johnny on lead vocals, gave the audience two hours of Skynyrd's trademark three-guitar leads and swamp-stomp rock 'n' roll. Original guitarists Ed King and Gary Rossington traded licks, sometimes harmonizing, sometimes chorusing their solos.
Skynyrd classics like "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Saturday Night Special" were delivered powerfully and effectively, while their classic sing-along "Gimme Three Steps" was so full of lyrical mirth and backwoods swing that it made today's party chants sound feeble. "You Got That Right," from the original group's last album, "Street Survivors," was especially poignant since Ronnie Van Zandt's lyrics prophetically address the topic of dying young.
But the emotional and musical high point came when the band ended with Skynyrd's trademark "Freebird" without any vocals, instead letting the audience sing the lyrics. Although it was a predictable finish, the poignancy of Johnny Van Zandt's introduction -- "Only one man can sing this song with this band" -- and the emotional energy of the surviving members made a fitting tribute to both the old and new Lynyrd Skynyrd. They sure got that right.