May 14, 2011
Oklahoma City, OK USA
Review by David Huff
Photos by Barry Bond
ZZ Top - ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Sometimes, words don't do justice to the scenes unfolding before you. As I stood inside the Zoo Amphitheater, gazing at an empty stage waiting for the arrival of Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top, a flood of memories came at me in waves. Sadness and joy accompanied those thoughts.
The first time I ever witnessed the greatness of ZZ was at the Myriad in December, 1979. The stage looked like a scene right out of the Wild West, complete with a live Longhorn steer. The show, obviously, was awesome. And then there was Lynyrd Skynyrd. They were special guests on Willie Nelson's Fourth of July picnic up in Tulsa at the State Fairgrounds in 1977. I drove up from Oklahoma City with my brother the night before. In an eerie omen of things to come, we witnessed a bad multi-car wreck on the turnpike, had automobile problems when I got to T-Town, but still managed to see the original Lynyrd Skynyrd on stage the next day. Three months later, the band's plane would run out of gas and crash, changing the dynamics of this Southern rock legend forever.
Bringing up memories of the past is what the Rebels & Bandoleros tour has evolved into. And that's not a bad thing either. As I stood inside the historic outdoor venue, surrounded by an older, appreciative crowd of over 10,000 souls, I wasn't alone in my thoughts. When Gary Rossington, the now sole survivor of the original Skynyrd, walked out on stage, he was greeted with thunderous applause. As the band, fronted by the dearly departed Donnie Van Zant's brother Johnny, launched into one Southern rock classic after another, the emotion of shared sorrow and obvious happiness of this ill-fated group was undeniable.
I don't have to give you a list of all the hits the band played. Skynyrd played them all. But let's face it, there was one song and one song only, this crowd was waiting to hear. When the opening chords to "Freebird" finally filtered through the sound system, any pent up emotions the masses were holding back was let go. The tremendous cheers coupled with the joyous sing-a-long said it all. When it was over, the crowd was as drained as the band itself - and thankful as well.
Following Lynyrd Skynyrd is a daunting task - unless your name happens to be ZZ Top. Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill were as fluid and fit as ever. Gibbons' scorching, clean guitar work remains a marvel. Bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard are as tight as any rhythm section could possibly be. The famous footwork and synchronized guitar moves Gibbons and Hill exhibited were a joy to behold. Then again, when you've been together for 40 years, these two know each other's moves in their sleep.
My hat goes off to ZZ Top and for good reason. Their egos are in complete check. They don't care if they open for another band (Tom Petty, Aerosmith), or they take the baton themselves and bring with them first class headlining acts. When you've sold over 50 million albums in your career, and ruled the 80s with albums like Deguello, Eliminator and Afterburner, you can rest assure after your legacy is intact.
As I was leaving the facility, I overheard some people talking about how great it was to see two rock and roll icons on the same stage. Indeed it was. Almost everyone in this crowd had seen these two bands at some point in the past. On this cool, Saturday evening in May, ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd did exactly what two legendary bands are supposed to do - create more lasting memories. Mission accomplished.