BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
This fall, Lynyrd Skynyrd will say goodbye to Atlanta when their “Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour” pulls into Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood.
If the show is a fraction as robust as the band’s intimate performance at Buckhead Theatre, fans will have plenty of reason to hoist their beers and cheer.
The private Thursday night concert was staged by SiriusXM and contained an audience of subscribers who won tickets as part of the satellite provider’s promotional push for its limited-run, Southern rock-focused “Free Bird” channel.
The Atlanta concert aired live (Channel 30) and will be rebroadcast Friday at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., as well as Monday at 3 p.m.
Kicking off the set with “What’s Your Name” and wrapping 90 minutes later with the musical marathon known as “Free Bird,” Lynyrd Skynyrd kept the energy elevated and the setlist familiar.
Though the band formed in Jacksonville, Fla., in the ‘60s, Atlanta has long been a key part of its history – notably, Skynyrd’s landmark “One More from the Road” double live album was recorded at the Fox Theatre – and the band’s affection for the city is still apparent (it’s also home for founding guitarist Gary Rossington).
Early in the show, the crew dedicated a heartfelt rendition of “Midnight Rider” to departed Georgia legend Gregg Allman, which garnered a roar of respectful approval from the packed house.
Frontman Johnny Van Zant, whose gritty voice punched the notes well except for a wincing “Sweet Home Alabama,” remains an affable frontman who ceded the spotlight to the fierce guitar heroics of Rossington and flaxen-haired Rickey Medlocke.
Van Zant also hyped the crowd with a simple jab of his scarf-adorned mic stand during “Down South Jukin’” and raised his red Solo cup in a toast to fans for “keeping Lynyrd Skynyrd alive.”
Seven musicians and two backup singers (Dale Krantz Rossington and Carol Chase) clustered on the tiny stage, but there was still enough room for guitarist Mark Matejka to step forward and rip out a solo on “That Smell.”
New bassist Keith Christopher mostly kept a quiet profile behind Rossington, holding down Skynyrd’s meaty rock grooves with drummer Michael Cartellone, while pianist Peter Keys added boogie-woogie spunk to the pool hall rocker, “I Know A Little.”
Van Zant ably steered the mood to a more pensive state for “Simple Man” - which he dedicated to military members both deployed and in the audience – and a lovely, harmonica-shaded “Tuesday’s Gone.”
But this is a band that has always thrived on foot-pumping, fist-raising anthems, and soon they were back in stride with “Call Me the Breeze.”
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sept. 1 show at Lakewood will also feature Hank Williams Jr., The Marshall Tucker Band and Blackberry Smoke. But as they demonstrated Thursday night, they can still command southern rock without any help.