[ d e e p P u r . p l e ) The Highway Star

Defying time

Lynyrd Skynyrd, fellow '70s acts beyond fashion

By Chris Vognar / The Dallas Morning News

The 70s rocked into town Friday night, a lot older but just about as loud as their heyday of... the 70s.

On one level, it's a surreal experience just to see the veteran rockers still running around the stage. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Deep Purple, Ted Nugent and Cheap Trick all took their turns blasting away at Smirnoff Music Centre, teaming up for a show that could have been sponsored by Ben-Gay.

Thankfully, no one collapsed and no one seemed to cramp up.

This was not a night to look for music of up-to-the-minute relevancy; such an idea seems beside the point of a nostalgia package tour. While the musicians didn't all look or sound the same as in days of yore - the years have replaced Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan's wild, flying black mane with a moderate-length gray 'do - the screaming fans seemed to enjoy each flashback.

Still, there was no doubt which band the crowd really wanted to see, or what song it really wanted to hear. Headlining act Lynyrd Skynyrd, still touring after all these years, has lost members to death, infighting and time. But they somehow still bring the noise in concert, riding one of the crispest multiple-guitar sounds known to rock. Skynyrd is a system as much as a band: Plug in a couple of new parts, keep at least one original guitarist and they still play the best Southern rock around. Especially with Billy Powell still alive and tickling the ivories through "Tuesday's Gone."

Listening to the countless hits again - "Working for MCA," "The Needle and the Spoon," "Saturday Night Special" - recalls how topical and cautionary these guys were. Themes of financial hoodwinking, premature death, drugs run amok and gun violence permeate the Skynyrd catalogue, even if it's the revved-up honky-tonk jams that strike the strongest cords. And yes, they did "Free Bird."

Pacing was the operative concept, as each band slowed the tempo a bit on some of their better-known cuts. Deep Purple, the only British import on the bill, seemed to bide some time and conserve its energy until the encore. Even then, Mr. Gillan's banshee wails couldn't reach their former high pitch.

Little matter, though; "Highway Star" was as rollicking as ever, and the veteran frontman even managed a youthful twirl of the microphone stand before leaving the stage. Meanwhile, keyboardist Jon Lord was the standout of the group, mixing fluid blues runs, boogie-woogie rock and nouveau-classical riffs throughout the set.

Mr. Nugent, taking a break from the hunting life (and from defending the hunting life on TV's Politically Incorrect), was the picture of middle-age power chords. The Motor City Madman pranced, preened and let it rip in defiance of the past 35 years, and showed that "Cat Scratch Fever" can still scar the eardrums. Still, his wild-man flair was tempered a bit by the Ted Nugent.com banner waving behind the band.

Drive safely, and welcome to the 21st century.

Post script:
This was a good review on Friday night's show except I do want to point out that the musicians are not trying to relive time and nostalgia (although it might feel like it) so much as still doing what they love. Music is their livelihood, what they are best at and the best way they know of how to make money to make ends meet. The tour has to do with each band going into the studio by winter time to produce new CDs.

And yes, thank goodness no one collapsed. Especially with the heat. I was especially concerned when Ian Gillan waked off stage for a couple minutes.

Alec Richards

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