Lynyrd Skynyrd @ Lucas Oil Live, Thackerville, OK

Words and photos by Duane Clawson
“Young and old. Three generations bold. We've been told, it's a Skynyrd Nation!”

The above line from the 2009 song “Skynyrd Nation” perfectly defines their fans, career, and the legend of a band from Jacksonville, FL…Lynyrd Skynyrd. If you know anything about music, you know Skynyrd. And even if you do not know who they are chances are you have heard at least one of their songs. Songs that are regularly played at wedding receptions, funerals, and sporting events. Songs that have been remixed and covered by numerous artists from all genres of music. Some will say that with the passing of guitarist and establishing member Gary Rossington earlier in 2023 that the current lineup is nothing more than a cover band I am here to tell you, you may be right, but it is the greatest cover band you will ever see!

The beautiful Lucas Oil Live Theater at Winstar Casino plays host to this show celebrating fifty years of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The current incarnation of Skynyrd was hopeful that Rossington would be able to return after battling health issues in 2022 but unfortunately, he passed in March of 2023. The estates of former founding members along with Rossington’s wife Dale gave their blessing for his bandmates to continue the legacy for future generations. A montage of band history taken from home movies and concert footage, complete with accompaniment by ACDC’s “Thunderstruck” proceeds their stage entrance. But the opening notes of “Workin’ for MCA” make it clear that the music is still thriving!

A time capsule of songs is unearthed as the night progresses. Every song in the setlist, except one, is from the band’s prime years, 1973-1977. Guitarist Rickey Medlocke knows every note inside and out, as he has been in the band twice once as a drummer and vocalist in the formative years from 1971-72 and returning as a full-time guitar picker in 1996. For thirty-seven years there has been one constant voice in Skynyrd, Johnny Van Zant. As you listen to the band live you can feel Johnny’s passion for delivering a quality product and preserving the memory of his late brother Ronnie.

Filling the remaining gaps, a who’s who of talented musicians surround Johnny and Rickey. Since 1999 drummer Michael Cartellone has kept a steady backbeat. Beginning in 2006 guitarist Mark Matejka has been one third of the trio of guitar players. Peter Keys touches all eighty-eight keys of the piano and has been present since 2009. Keith Christopher currently thumps the bass guitar and has held the position for seven years. The group’s newest member is the talented Damon Johnson, he has the unenviable task of filling the void left by Rossington’s passing.

Throughout the night each song felt like it brought everyone closer literally and figuratively. Many in attendance wandered close to the stage to take selfies while the band performed classics such as, “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Simple Man,” and “Curtis Lowe.” The stirring “Tuesday's Gone” was dedicated to Gary and featured an emotional video memoir of his life. Their music has always held a special place in my heart, as it was some of the first rock and roll I had heard. At the time I was introduced to the concept of sharing music. A gift I would later pass on to my oldest daughter, escorting her to her first rock concert, where Skynyrd was the opener for ZZ Top.

As the opening notes of “Freebird” played you could feel Lucas Oil Live was about to erupt. For many years, the band has paid tribute to Ronnie Van Zant, by placing the hat he wore onstage, atop a microphone stand. I am not sure how many noticed but as the mic stand was placed center stage, Johnny placed two fingers to his lips and then, ever so gently, laid his fingers on the hat’s rattlesnake skin band and walked offstage. A moment that was so brief but forever will leave a lasting impression of a brother’s love. Through the magic of technology Ronnie appears on the video screen behind the ensemble and finishes the second verse. An orderly crowd made their way to the front of the stage. They sang, danced, and air guitared every riff of the twelve-minute-long opus!

At the conclusion, the band gathered for their final bows, all smiling, giving all the feeling they genuinely enjoy bringing this music to the fans. And as a fan I say thank you for keeping the music alive.

A huge thank you Lynyrd Skynyrd for allowing MTC MAG to be front and center. And thank you to Lucas Oil Live for being a great host!

Photos of the show are below:

Contributed by Duane Clawson
Lynyrd Skynyrd @ Lucas Oil Live, Thackerville, OK Lynyrd Skynyrd @ Lucas Oil Live, Thackerville, OK Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on January 01, 2024 Rating: 5
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