Farewell tours are not new, but recent years have seen an uptick in them. With many band members aging, and a desire for fans of all ages to see their favorite bands play one last time, farewell tours are an increasingly relevant part of the live music ecosystem. At their best, they’re bittersweet, leaving fans sad that their favorite band is hanging it up, but also with more memories to cherish.
Particularly touched by this recent wave has been the rock world. With major artists like Slayer, Elton John, and Deep Purple announcing “final” extended runs over the course of the last few years, fans have had many opportunities to say goodbye to some of their favorites. On Friday night, beloved rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd brought their “Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour (presented by SiriusXM)” to the Treasure Island Amphitheater, topping an impressive bill that included acts from every stage of their career.
Opening the show with a bang was The Outlaws. A Southern Rock group known best for a run of hits in the late 70’s, the Outlaws brought a tight, three-guitar attack that more than held the attention of the growing crowd. Their set, though clocking in at a little over thirty minutes, was impressive for its level of energy and the band’s chemistry.
The guitar shredding would provide a glimpse of what was to come in the show, with each band seemingly working hard to top the last in terms of guitar theatrics. The guitar playing on the bill, top-to-bottom, was some of the best I’ve seen in quite some time. Each band contributed their own unique vision and skills.
Next up was Chris Kroeze. A Wisconsin born singer/songwriter/guitarist who recently made waves by finishing second on season fifteen of The Voice, Kroeze and his group paired the voice he’s become known for with a strong Americana and rock sound. Though the set was cover-heavy, the selection was tasteful and ranged from rootsier fare (The Chris Stapleton-penned “If It Hadn’t Been for Love”) to more straightforward rock (The Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane”). It’s as hard as ever for young artists to really break through, but Kroeze proved again on a big stage that he has the chops to do it.
Another chops-y rock band would follow, albeit with a much different style. Gov’t Mule, a veteran Hard Rock/Jam quartet led by legendary guitarist Warren Haynes, played for a just over an hour. Mule presented a bluesier, heavier, and more psychedelic sound and approach than the bands who preceded them. Though the set was well-executed from a musical standpoint, the crowd was somewhat less engaged than they would be at various other points in the show.
That’s not to say there weren’t highlights in the set, however. Early on, the quartet tore through a strong “Game Face” that segued directly into Allman Brothers’ classic “Mountain Jam” before reprising. Later, they would play old Mule favorites “Banks of the Deep End,” “Beautifully Broken” and “Mule,” all of which are great entry points into their catalog, particularly for an audience who might be unfamiliar with their music.
Haynes showed throughout why he’s as good as any rock guitarist today, easily moving between blues, several strands of rock and roll, and psychedelia. It wasn’t quite as immediately accessible as some of the other bands on the bill, but it was impressive nonetheless. After finishing on a high note with another Allman Brothers Favorite, “Soulshine,” the group received a hard-earned standing ovation.
The stage was set for the night’s headliner. Skynyrd, the legendary rock group, needs no introduction. Though the other acts were great in their own ways, this is what the people came for. And they got what they wanted — lots of hits. While there were a few deeper cuts mixed in, the band stuck, for the most part, to the hits that have endured through all these years.
Though the band’s career has been at points tragic, tumultuous, and controversial, the music has been the stabilizer, a staple of classic rock radio, and rock fans’ record collections for almost 50 years. This Lineup, though only including one original member (guitarist Gary Rossington), did the music justice, playing fan favorite after fan favorite.
Particularly strong in the set was the run of “Tuesday’s Gone,” “No questions,” “Simple Man,” and J.J. Cale’s “Call me the Breeze,” each showcasing a different facet of the band, from their balladry to outright boogie. Singer Johnny Van Zant (brother of original singer Ronnie Van Zant) wasn’t the most charismatic lead singer you’ve seen, but his delivery was solid, and he knew when to step in and out of the spotlight.
But the best part of the evening, as noted earlier, was the guitar work. Rickey Medlocke, while not an original member of the band, joined Skynard in 1996, and his chemistry soloing off of and playing in harmony with Rossington and Mark Martejka was a delight to watch. All are dynamic players and brought the songs to life. The evening’s encore, “Freebird” showcased that chemistry more so than any other song.
While yelling “Freebird” at concerts has become a tired, passé bit, seeing the song live was a true thrill. Rossington, Medlocke, and Martejka, who had played off each other so well the whole show, took things to the next level, ripping off solo after solo, leading to a furious climax at the end of the set. It was an appropriate end for the survivors and one more memory for the ten-thousand plus attendees who ventured down to the Treasure Island Amphitheatre.