Clarkston, Michigan (August 17, 2018) – If you’re a fan of Southern rock, the DTE Energy Music Theater was your destination tonight as Lynyrd Skynyrd and their “Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour” rolled into town. With legendary rockers, The Marshall Tucker Band along with The Charlie Daniels Band and 2009 CMA New Artist of the Year nominee, Jamey Johnson, the capacity crowd expected a party, and that’s exactly what they got
The Marshall Tucker Band got the early evening off to rousing start. Founding member and lead singer Doug Gray used the limited time slot wisely by covering the highlight hits from the bands 45-year music library. Opening with “Heard It in a Love Song” and finishing with their best seller of all time, “Can’t You See”, the 5-song performance was entertaining and harkened back to the early roots of the genre.
The disappointment of the fans should be noted though as most complained the 30-minute set wasn’t nearly enough time for some of the deeper jam sessions this band is known. A group with as much musical history as The Marshall Tucker Band, they have earned the right to more than just a short filler set. Just as the rhythmic chant heard throughout the venue suggested “LET THEM PLAY!”
After an extremely quick stage change, Charlie Daniels, the master of the fiddle, and his band were up next. First off lets set the record straight, the crowd wanted to hear one song in particular, “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”. Luckily for them, Daniels made them wait until the last song of his 8-song, 40-minute set. What the crowd got in between the opener “Southern Boy” and the aforementioned was a glimpse into the soul of a man whose deep Southern roots and love for his country are portrayed through his music. Everything from the “Pledge of Allegiance/In America” to the Johnny Cash classic “Folsom Prison Blues” was met with cheers from the rapidly filling venue. A well-placed, emotional rendition of “How Great Thou Art” was the perfect interlude to the Daniels fiddle playing classic “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” which traditionally has closed the night for the band since its early inception.
Next, it was Jamey Johnsons’ turn to carry the momentum. The relative “newcomer” in comparison to the rest of tonight’s artists, is still an unknown to most, but yet highly respected by country music traditionalists and outlaw country purists. Johnson’s one hour 9 song set included his 2009 ACM Song Of The Year, “In Color” and the critically acclaimed “The High Cost of Living”. Mixed in between was an eclectic mix of covers by artists such as Joe Walsh, Merle Haggard, Tom Petty and headliners, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Unfortunate as it is, the cover songs continually received a better response from the fans than Johnsons own. By no means is this an indictment on his music, but only serves to prove the growing divide between traditional country and modern country is real with acclaimed artists such as Johnson, the real losers in the end.
Jamey Johnsons’ set was a well-rounded spectacle that should have been appreciated by all, but that just wasn’t the case. This same performance 20 years ago would have blown the roof off of Pine Knob and would have left fans speechless. Tonight, it was just an afterthought, and to all the Jamey Johnson fans in attendance, it was a real shame.
When Lynyrd Skynyrd finally took the stage for their farewell performance at DTE, they were met with a thunderous ovation from the sold-out venue. Without wasting time or basking in the moment, the icons from Alabama got the party started with a string of hits that spanned their illustrious career. Right out of the gate it was “Workin’ for MCA” followed by “Skynyrd Nation”, “What’s Your Name”, ”Travelin’ Man” and a song that reportedly was written about the lifestyle of an unnamed band member, “That Smell”.
With an opening run of hits like that, the fans would have had no qualms if Skynyrd slowed it down just enough to give themselves a breather. But these boys from down South where having none of that and proceeded to rip through another series of hits that included stalwarts “Saturday Night Special”, “Tuesdays Gone”, “I Know A Little” and as an added bonus, “The Ballad of Curtis Loew”.
If the music wasn’t enough to get the crowd involved in the festivities, the giant video screen at the back of the stage did. It was a continuous show of close-ups of original member Gary Rossington along with the current lineup consisting of Johnny Van Zant, Rickey Medlocke, Keith Christopher, Peter Keys, Mark “Sparky” Mateika, Michael Cartellone. The same video board was also used for a fitting a tribute to past members that encompassed the humbling “Tuesdays Gone”. Each departed members image was displayed along with other artists who have been associated with Lynyrd Skynyrd since their inception.
The band did slow the freight train of hits down just a little for one the most commercially successful songs in their library, “Simple Man”. This gave the band just enough time to catch their breath in preparation for the high energy “Gimme’ Three Steps”, ”Call Me the Breeze” and the epic final song before the encore, “Sweet Home Alabama”.
With a deafening roar from the fans permeating through venues night air, Lynyrd Skynyrd returned to the DTE stage for their trademark closing song. From the opening guitar licks of “Free Bird”, through Van Zants harrowing vocals that culminated with Medlockes signature guitar finish; it was pure Skynyrd, in their finest moment.
As the exhausting night came to a close, we are all left wondering will there ever be another that can compare to the legend that is Lynyrd Skynyrd? Until that question is answered, all we have is the memory of tonight and nearly 50 years of classic hits to keep us going. And to be honest, to me that’s not too bad at all!