Concert Reviews

Lynyrd Skynyrd / Status Quo / Massive Wagons Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     July 12, 2019    
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Lynyrd Skynyrd / Status Quo / Massive Wagons - Resort World Arena, Birmingham (UK) - 31 June 2019

I admit to not being the greatest fan of Massive Wagons, I'd only ever seen them once before, as support to The Dead Daisies in Oxford last year where I wasn't overly impressed, but admittedly the truly abysmal sound did them no favours whatsoever. No such trouble at the Resort World Arena (I still refer to it as the NEC) where the sound quality was spot-on. The larger stage gave frontman Baz Mills plenty of space to jump around in, and while I think his vocals veer towards shouty too frequently, he is a great focal point. I still think they come across as a little too loose musically live, but they enjoy themselves and even some of the audience's more senior members seemed to be really enjoying them too. I don't understand why they don't play what is arguably their best song in 'Under No Illusion' in these support sets, but 'Ratio', 'Billy Balloon-Head' and 'Back To The Stack' (fittingly dedicated to the late, great Rick Parfitt) are enjoyable, and they're rewarded with a huge cheer at the end so fair play to them. It must also be great for them to be on the bill before The Quo.

I do love Status Quo, but hadn't seen them live since 2002 on the 'Heavy Traffic' tour, so I was intrigued and really looking forward to see how they would be with the new line-up, and once they kicked off with what has to be one of the best show-openers in 'Caroline' I couldn't understand why I hadn't seen them in so long. I think it's unfair that many people regard this as "The Francis Rossi Solo Band" – keyboardist Andy Bown has been with them since 1976 and bassist Rhino Edwards since 1986 so they're not exactly hired hands, and they now contribute probably more than they ever have; Rhino does the vocals on 'Rain' and 'Again And Again', Bown sings 'Whatever You Want' (as song he co-wrote) and new-boy Richie Malone turns in a great showing on a cracking 'Mystery Song'. Yes, we all miss Rick Parfitt, but Quo are entitled to still exist without him and Malone is turning out to be a worthy substitution. Following 'The Oriental' they sneak in a couple of new tracks from the forthcoming 'Backbone' album which sounded pretty damn good, but then 'In The Army Now', 'Roll Over Lay Down', 'Down Down', 'Whatever You Want' and 'Rockin' All Over The World' definitely made for a great finale. It certainly won't be seventeen years until I see the Quo again.

The mighty Lynyrd Skynyrd can truly lay claim to being the greatest Southern Rock band ever, but the fittingly-monikered 'Last Of The Street Survivors' tour will see them calling it a day – eventually as it's turning out to be a hell of a long tour, but fair play to them for visiting so many territories and for also covering a decent portion of Britain and not just a one-off London show. This Birmingham show was the last night of the UK leg.

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AC/DC have some bloody great gig-intro songs, and the whole of 'Thunderstruck' boomed through the PA as the lights slowly dimmed, then the huge screen at the rear of the stage lit up with a vintage radio tuning up which gave way to a brilliant montage of classic album covers as Skynyrd strolled on and launched into 'Workin' For MCA'. With so many classic songs in their repertoire it was pretty obvious the set would be brimming with golden oldies, but I was really pleased that they didn't neglect their brilliant, more recent output, airing the very fitting 'Skynyrd Nation' second song in. from thereon in however it was classics all the way with Johnny Van Zant putting his own spin on the likes of 'What's Your Name', 'That Smell', 'The Needle And The Spoon', 'Saturday Night Special' and always impressive 'Tuesday's Gone' as he has since 1987. It was also a surprise that 'The Ballad Of Curtis Loew' was also present.

The screen frequently featured great close-up shots of the band performing, but also vintage clips that paid tribute to the many dearly departed band members, none more poignantly than during the wonderful 'Simple Man', dedicated to "all the Momma's". It was a lively finish to the main set, with 'Gimme Three Steps', 'Call Me The Breeze' and inevitably 'Sweet Home Alabama', for sure the song that would have put Skynyrd on the map for the younger members of the audience.

We all knew exactly what was imminent for the encore, but that didn't stop the spine-tingling feeling as images of Ronnie Van Zant fishing filled the screen and Peter Keys began the familiar piano intro to the immortal 'Freebird'. What was truly outstanding is how Johnny respectfully left the stage after the first chorus as footage of his brother and mentor Ronnie singing played out on the screen, a wonderful moment. But then it was time for THAT solo, as Gary Rossington, Rickey Medlocke and Marky Matejka combined for the greatest guitar extravaganza of all-time, Medlocke torturing his whammy bar to within an inch of its life at the finale, simply stunning.

When the end finally does happen for Lynyrd Skynyrd, I really hope it's captured in its entirety for prosperity. Until then, I'm so pleased I was able to see these legends one last time.

Ant Heeks

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