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London Hammersmith Apollo

Nigh on impossible to kill...

London Hammersmith Apollo

Like cockroaches, it's seems nigh on impossible to kill Lynyrd Skynyrd. The group's survived innumerable tragedies, including the infamous 1977 plane crash which killed lead singer/songwriter Ronnie Van Zandt just three days after they released the unfortunately titled 'Street Survivors' album. Such an horrific incident would have ended most bands but not Skynyrd - they're from Alabama.

Though the plane crash put a stop to Skynyrd for ten years, they decided to reform adding the late Ronny Van Zandt's little brother Johnny on vocals - only original members keyboard player Bill Powell and guitarist Gary Rossington are on stage tonight, but the old Skynyrd is still very much with us. Tonight, Johnny's wearing a shirt with a portrait of his deceased brother on the back. It reads: 'Fly on proud bird/You're free at last'.

Even after all this time, their Southern Rock 'N' Roll can still wipe the floor with most modern rock bands - their oft-derided three guitar attack still as heavy as ever. Predictably, they play all the hits - the heavy ballad 'Simple Man', the rocking 'Three Steps' and of course, the obligatory 'Sweet Home Alabama'. Originally written as a retort to Neil Young's 'Southern Man', it's a anthem for the south and a big 'fuck-you' to politically correct America.

Come the first bars of the song and the backdrop's turned into a huge Confederate flag, with lil' Johnny wrapping the same flag round his microphone, raising it high into the crowd. Politics aside, it's a fantastic rock moment, the song ending with all three guitarists stood together, guitars pointed at the skies.

As the Skynyrd faithful wait for the encore a roadie places a shiny gold sculpture of an eagle on top of Bill Powell's grand piano - mmmm, wonder if the encore's going to include 'Freebird'? Of course it does.

Originally written as a tribute to the late Duane Allman, the song's widely regarded as Skynyrd's signature tune, and its become a mainstay at biker funerals all over the world.

As an anthem to the free spirited, rock and roll lifestyle, it has few peers. Skynyrd obviously know this as they play it tonight for at least 15 minutes - with a five minute crescendo ending on top.

Though this world is no longer theirs, Lynyrd Skynyrd are still carrying the torch for good ole' honest rock and roll. Theirs is a spark that will never go out.

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