Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd had quite the homecoming this year. More than 50 years after Jacksonville teenagers Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, and Ronnie Van Zant formed their first band, My Backyard, Rossington brought the current incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd to Jacksonville’s Florida Theater. Over the course of two nights in April, they performed the band’s debut album and follow-up, (pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) and Second Helping, in their entirety for the first time. Although Rossington is the sole member to have played on those albums, the 2015 line-up does the music and former members proud with their faithful recreations.
Playing both albums in order, "I Ain't The One" opens the show. It's a sleazy rocker with lyrics illustrating that even before Maury and Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" told the tale, some guys ended up in the middle of "some kinda conspiracy" where gals tried to pin another man's baby on them. Johnny Van Zant's voice is similar enough that it's easy to see why he was asked to take
After a trio songs surely familiar to classic-rock listeners, the lighter-waving, slow-rolling anthems "Tuesday's Gone" and "Simple Man" sandwiched around the up-tempo "Gimme Three Steps," the band dabbles with New Orleans sounds on “Things Goin’ On,” a swamp boogie number with the appropriately named Pat Keys delivering some honky-tonk piano. In his lyrics, Ronnie calls out the powers that be because he "don't think they really care" as evidenced by "Too many lives they've spent across the ocean. / Too much money been spent upon the moon." As a songwriter, the thoughtful, political lyrics reveal Ronnie to be much more than a simple man.
After a couple more deep cuts, including Ricky Medlocke playing mandolin on "Mississippi Kid," comes pronounced's final song and the band's signature tune, "Freedbird. A nice tribute to the late members occurs as their names appear over candles on the video screen. Led by Medlocke, the band cuts loose on the song’s iconic coda and presents a great reminder that three guitars can be an outstanding rock assault.
After taking a bow, new audience members appear, and the band is seen taking the stage again for "Second Helping." After the well-known, unofficial state song of Alabama, we again get to hear that Skynyrd's sound is wider than radio typically reveals. "I Need You" is a tender love ballad and "Don’t Ask Me No Questions" finds a three-piece horn section offering great support. They take a detour into the Delta blues with “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” featuring Mark Matejka playing slide guitar and the hard driving “Swamp Music.”
They close with “Needle and the Spoon,” a heartfelt song that unfortunately has a common theme from the ‘7os about heroin, and their final number is “Call Me The Breeze," a song the band inhabits so well, it wouldn't be surprised for a person not to know it was written by J.J. Cale.
The video has been given a 1080i/ MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at 1.78:1. The colors are bright and blacks are inky. The image offers good detail and depth. One negative is the cameras couldn’t handle the brightness of the lights, so on occasion there are spots of intense banding. My preference was the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 option. The music comes through with great clarity and separation, so the instruments sound district and don't bleed together. Johnny's vocals are clear and the band members are positioned well across the fronts. The track also delivers very good bass.
There’s one bonus feature. Listed as Interview (HD, 20 min) in the menu, but is more accurately titled on the back cover as 'An Intimate Backstage Visit with the Band." The band, crewmembers, and fans talk about the band, their music, and these shows.
Whether you know a little or a lot about Lynyrd Skynyrd, this concert should satisfy fans, especially the ones who know all the songs. Plus, the Blu-ray delivers a very good high-def presentation of the proceedings.