Music historians — as well as the rock ‘n’ roll faithful — know better than to ever count Lynyrd Skynyrd out.
Indeed, a tragic plane crash on Oct. 20, 1977 that took the lives of three band members, including singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines, marked the beginning of a series of tragic turns that have seen the passing of guitarist Allen Collins, keyboardist Billy Powell, bassist Leon Wilkeson, drummer Bob Burns, backing vocalist JoJo Billingsley and guitarist Hughie Thomasson. The latest challenge for the enduring Southern rock troupe included founding guitarist Gary Rossington undergoing emergency heart surgery in July 2021.
Fast-forward to last night, and the band was headlining before a capacity crowd at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, Calif. Although not able to run about, Johnny Van Zant — who noted he underwent knee surgery a month ago — was on his feet during most of the set and sounded great.
Watch Lynyrd Skynyrd Play ‘Gimme Three Steps’ in Los Angeles on May 13, 2022
Early in the set, Van Zant said of Rossington, “He is still on the mend and getting better.” The singer also noted that Rossington told his bandmates to go to California and assured them, “I’ll be there in spirit.”
His spirit was tangible at last night’s show, a hit-filled 90-minute set that found the Southern rock royalty celebrating their survival and legacy. Touring guitarist Damon Johnson (Alice Cooper, Thin Lizzy) did an excellent job filling in for the recovering Rossington, ably trading lead and slide guitar work with longtime members Rickey Medlocke and Mark Matejka.
Early highlights included the rootsy blues rocker “Whiskey Rock-A-Roller,” bolstered by backing gospel vocals, a rousing “That Smell” featuring all three guitar greats in action and an affecting acoustic medley of “Mississippi Kid” and “Red, White & Blue.”
The momentum built as the band performed its biggest hits, rousing the audience to its feet with bonafide classics like the powerful “Simple Man” (featuring some of Van Zant’s greatest vocals of the night), the rollicking “Gimme Three Steps,” a cover of J.J. Cale’s “Call Me the Breeze,” the rocking “Sweet Home Alabama” and a marathon 12-minute run through “Free Bird.” From the piano-anchored singalong section through the mighty, guitars-on-steroids finale, the song proved once more that Lynyrd Skynyrd remain one of rock’s toughest gangs of street survivors.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Los Angeles County Fair, 5/13/22
1. “Workin’ for MCA”
2. “You Got That Right”
3. “Double Trouble”
4. “Whiskey Rock-A-Roller”
5. “That Smell”
6. “Cry for the Bad Man”
7. “Saturday Night Special”
8. “What’s Your Name”
9. “Tuesday’s Gone”
10. “Mississippi Kid” (acoustic)
11. “Red, White & Blue (Love It or Leave)” (acoustic)
12. “Simple Man” (acoustic / electric)
13. “Gimme Three Steps”
14. “Call Me the Breeze”
15. “Sweet Home Alabama”
16. “Free Bird”
– Robert Kinsler
Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Los Angeles County Fair, May 13, 2022
Southern rockers return to California