Sunday, October 10

The free bird is dead; long live the midnight riders

From The Charlotte Observer
by MARK KEMP

The band that calls itself Lynyrd Skynyrd should throw in the towel -- or, maybe I should say, the Confederate flag.

When the current Skynyrd opened for the Allman Brothers at Verizon Amphitheatre last Friday during the two influential Southern rock bands' historic first joint tour, it became abundantly clear why the Allmans remain so well respected and why Skynyrd is having a hard time getting into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.

Don't get me wrong, Skynyrd should be in the Hall. The original Skynyrd.

The current version has become a glorified cover band. Only two original members remain, and the others -- veterans of inferior acts including Blackfoot and the Outlaws -- put more emphasis on rock-star posturing than on rock 'n' roll soul.

Frnt man Johnny Van Zant -- brother of founding singer Ronnie, killed in a 1977 plane crash -- never had a great voice, but now it's an empty croak. When he barked through obligatory versions of "Simple Man" and "Sweet Home Alabama," all the character and nuance of his late brother were gone. Only the swagger remained. And when the band trotted out its new material, such as the mindless patriotic mumble of "Red, White and Blue," the sentiment felt hollow and calculated.

The Allmans, on the other hand, played with as much passion as I've ever seen from them. Only three originals remain, but the younger blood -- guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, percussionist Marc Quiñones and bassist Oteil Burbridge -- perform as if every show is a new experience. Their improvisations are intricate and intense, and Gregg Allman's warm, gospel-ish wail still drips with a tenderness that's fueled his best works, such as the melancholy "Midnight Rider." The Allmans' music isn't about nostalgia, it's about timelessness.
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