Eagle Rock [Release date 23.10.15] CD/DVD/Bluray
Live DVD’s from the post reformation Skynyrd have been a dime a dozen, but this latest release has an interesting twist to justify its existence. Rather than a standard Greatest Hits show, they took up a two night residency at the Florida Theatre in their home town of Jacksonville, which looks a very opulent old two tiered building from the shots here.
Moreover they played their first two albums in their entirety from start to finish. Being their best in my book along with ‘Street Survivors’, and forming the cornerstone of their live set, they are worthy candidates for this increasingly popular format.
The downside of the format from a pacing point of view is that, with the albums played in order, the show does not flow the way a concert or live DVD would, with a crowd pleaser like ‘Gimme Three Steps’ placed early in the set and a mid DVD double of inevitable set closer ‘Freebird’. Where the guitar jam is outstanding as ever, and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ as they switch to the ‘Second Helping’ album.
The show is filmed from a variety of angles but always homes in on the key musicians at the right point with some telling details, such as capturing Ricky Medlocke with his foot on the wah-wah pedal during a fiery solo on ‘Needle and the Spoon’, combined also with some shots both of the front of the crowd and aerial views from the back of the balcony.
For a Skynrd diehard as opposed to the more casual fan the delight is in hearing a wider variety of songs than usually grace the live set, and in particular there is a stronger emphasis on some of their countrified moments like ‘Things Going On’ and ‘The Ballad of Curtis Loew’ with plenty of slide guitar playing from Gary Rossington, and Mark Matjeka and Ricky even playing mandolin on ‘Mississippi Kid’.
‘I Need You’, cut from the same cloth as ‘Tuesdays Gone’ and ‘Simple Man’ but less well known, has some beautiful twin guitars while there is a horn section on ‘Don’t Ask Me No Questions’ and ‘Swamp Music’, which I don’t recall Skynyrd ever using.
As usual with the current Skynyrd line-up, the tightness of the band and their on stage choreography is immaculate and the quality of the lead guitar work solos or in tandem is outstanding with ‘Working for MCA’ perhaps the stand out while the loose grooves of ‘Call Me the Breeze’ end the show and see the crowd dancing in the aisles.
There is a solitary extra in an extended behind the scenes documentary sequence in which the band pay tribute to fallen members and the prominence of the road crew in the interviews demonstrates what a close-knit and proud community the Skynyrd camp is.
With Gary Rossington recuperating from a heart attack at the time of writing Skynyrd’s continuing future is in a fragile state. This trip back to where it all began is a timely reminder of the legacy of one of America’s musical treasures. ****
Review by Andy Nathan
The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk Sunday 21 February, 16:00 EST, 21:00 GMT
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