Tonight’s gig at the Resorts World arena (or NEC as most fans still call it) was one I’d been looking forward to for a while as it’s a superb bill. Headlining is Lynyrd Skynyrd on their farewell tour. The main support is Status Quo, and the opening act is Massive Wagons – three great bands on one bill.
Massive Wagons were on stage at the surprisingly early time of 7pm, so since most opening acts arent on till 7.30 or 8pm then it’s no surprise that the arena wasnt full, but there was still a large crowd (the arena was maybe 70% full) for this young up and coming band to try and impress, and that’s exactly what they did, both musically and with their performance. Singer Baz Mills seems determined to cover every inch of the stage as he sings, and with some high kicks thrown in he’s great fun to watch. The rest of the band are less mobile and focus on putting in great performances to try and impress anyone who isn’t familiar with the band. There’s no sign of any nerves despite this tour being their first time playing arenas and they look at home on the big stages. It’s a short set but a very enjoyable one and I’m sure they’ll have made a load of new fans here tonight.
Next up was Status Quo – or was it? For many fans no Rick Parfitt means it’s no longer Quo, but I was planning to reserve judgement till I heard the new look Quo – after all plenty of great bands have carried on and been great after losing key members.
The setlist was in the main a catalogue of hits – “Down down”, “Caroline”, “In the army now”, “Whatever you want” and more, but “Liberty lane” and “Cut me some slack” were unknown as they’re from the band’s forthcoming album “Backbone” which isnt due for release till September. Richie Malone does a very good job as Rick’s replacement but it’s just not the same. Overall while I enjoyed tonight’s set it just felt like it was lacking something and I have to sadly conclude that it’s just not Quo anymore. It’s a real shame as there’s a great catalogue of songs but it just doesn’t feel right now. Maybe with a new album and time it will feel better but I think it’s going to be a long time before some fans accept Quo live without Rick.
Finally it was time for the Southern rock legends – Lynyrd Skynyrd. A band that formed in the early 60s and which seemed to be over forever when in 1977 a plane crash killed several band members. At that point they disbanded and it was a decade later before the band reformed with some new members alongside the original members. Since then there have been various lineup changes and Gary Rossington is now the only remaining original band member with Johnny Van Zant being the next longest serving member having joined in 1987. Over the years Southern rock has gone from cool to very much out of fashion and in recent years has enjoyed a revival, but Lynyrd Skynyrd have stuck to their guns and carried on making their kind of music rather than bowing to what’s popular at the time. As a result they’ve got a large catalogue of great songs and tonight’s set showcases that nicely. It’s a strong start to their set with “Workin’ for MCA” and “Skynyrd nation”, and it carries on strongly from there. Of course it’s at the end of the night when they break out the really big guns, ending the set with “Sweet home Alabama” with most of the crowd singing along too and performing “Freebird” as the encore. What an encore it was though – not just one of the best known rock songs of all time, but it’s an extended version that was made even more special by having the giant screens behind the band show original singer, the long-dead Ronnie van Zant and we’re treated to the band playing along to his vocals as his younger brother Johnny Van Zant sings and looks on. A truly magical end to a fantastic gig.