“What song do you wanna hear?…. FREEBIRD!!!!!” After hearing that line a kazillion times before, it was finally at the right concert. Last Saturday, at Budweiser Stage in Toronto, droves of rock fans congregated for a night of “Southern Rock Legends” as Lynyrd Skynyrd rode into town along with friends ZZ Top and 38 Special.
It was yet another of those evenings that tests the city’s entire infrastructure as Toronto and its roadways were bursting at the seams. Ontario Place featured an Asian Street Food Market, there was some sort of event across the road at The Ex with house music blaring out of huge speakers, plus Skynyrd! Three very distinct groups of people walking around and you knew exactly which venue they were looking for at a glance. Just an FYI, Skynyrd had the bigger speakers… Yay!! Our music won the loudness battle.
Florida’s 38 Special began the festivities, getting the already packed house into that “Southern rock” frame of mind…. Bartender, gimme a Jim Beam! 38 Special played a quick but awesome set of all the big hits. “Rockin’ Into The Night,” “Back Where You Belong,” then a bit of a medley with “Back To Paradise”/ “The Sound Of Your Voice”/ “Somebody Like You”/ “Honky Tonk Dancer”/ “Teacher Teacher”/ “You Keep Runnin’ Away” were their first three songs, finishing with the megahit “Hold On Loosely”.
“Hold On Loosely” if you’re going to watch this 38 Special video.
First intermission of the night and beer, bourbon and pizza lines are getting long. From that sweet aroma wafting through the air, one might have imagined that there was a ganja bar somewhere too, maybe next year?… “Oo-Oo That Smell, Can’t You Smell That Smell?”
Next up were Texans ZZ Top. I can hardly believe that these guys have been going for like 50 years, and this was only my second time seeing them live, but Billy Gibbons, Frank Beard, and Dusty Hill never disappoint. The guys have so much fantastic material that this was pretty much a greatest hits show. The “tres hombres” took us on a fast-paced rock n roll stroll down memory lane. Those iconic fuzzy guitars even came out for the smash hit “Legs”. The only thing that was missing from the stage was their ‘33 Ford Coupe, the “Eliminator” car. The first three songs that ZZ Top played were “Got Me Under Pressure,” “I Thank You,” and “Waitin’ For The Bus,” finishing their set with the classic “Tush”.
The mega-awesome ZZ Top tack, “Gimme All Your Lovin’”.
Intermission has arrived and just in time to hit the Jim Beam bar for a refill. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a long line up for the men’s restroom, but that’s what happens when you get more than 16,000 “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers” together. The police, venue security, and paramedics were kept very busy. As the booze flow increases, inevitably people’s inhibitions decrease, as well as their common sense. Inebriated fans that had been ejected from the show, for some reason always seem to think it would be a good idea to jump in the lake and try to swim back into the concert without being noticed. One by one, they get plucked out of the water and escorted back to the exit once again, waterlogged, trying to argue with police that they have rights and deserve to stay for the rest of the show. That was almost as entertaining as the concert itself.
Okay, that’s enough of the drunken shenanigans, it’s showtime again! Floridians Lynyrd Skynyrd owned the stage the rest of the evening. Another band that’s been going strong for 50 years, one would think that they show no signs of slowing down, judging from the energy exuding from the band. Guitarist Rickey Medlocke spinning around the stage seeming to be doing a guitar-fuelled “war dance”, but as the tour slogan says, this is “The Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour.”
Skynyrd took us on another rock journey through the decades, with front man Johnny Van Zant, who retired from 38 Special, but now sings with Skynyrd, belting out hit after hit to the fans’ delight. We now have a full blown Southern rock party under way… It was such a great evening and a show that should not have been missed!
Lynyrd Skynyrd performing “Sweet Home Alabama” on July 2, 1977 at Oakland Coliseum Stadium.
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Setlist:
01. Workin’ For MCA
02. Skynyrd Nation
03. What’s Your Name
04. Travelin’ Man
05. That Smell
06. I Know A Little
07. The Needle And The Spoon
08. Saturday Night Special
09. Red White & Blue
10. The Ballad Of Curtis Loew
11. Tuesdays Gone
12. Don’t Ask Me No Questions
13. Simple Man
14. Gimme Three Steps
15. Call Me The Breeze
16. Sweet Home Alabama
17. Free Bird