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

Boston Herald review

Skynyrd offers a spooky '70s flashback
by Brett Milano
Monday, June 18, 2001

Lynyrd Skynyrd with Deep Purple and Ted Nugent. At the Tweeter Center on Saturday night.

One good thing about going to a Lynyrd Skynyrd show: You can yell out "Free Bird!" - as wiseguys have done at any and all concerts during the past two decades - and know that song is definitely going to get played.

One bad thing about going to a Lynyrd Skynyrd show in 2001: Original singer Ronnie Van Zant is still dead, and the band still hasn't escaped his shadow. The remaining Skynyrds first came together (with brother Johnny Van Zant singing) on a tribute tour in 1987, 10 years after Ronnie died in a plane crash. They've since released a few albums of new material, but barely bother to play them onstage. And they don't put a fresh enough spin on the '70s songs to rescue them from two decades of classic-rock overkill.

Now down to three original members, Skynyrd devoted Saturday's show to reverential versions of the oldies, even leaving the dated Watergate references in "Sweet Home Alabama." Though he's not quite as good a singer, Johnny Van Zant copied all his late brother's inflections. He even stared into the heavens while singing "Free Bird," to make sure we got the memorial point. The only new feature was a stage backdrop of a spooky swamp, which added to the sense of watching a ghost band.

On the other hand, Deep Purple sounded alive and surprisingly well. After years of decline, the veteran British band got a shot in the arm with the recent addition of ex-Dixie Dregs guitarist Steve Morse (the '70s Purple lineup is otherwise intact). They still play heavy metal with a bit of finesse - Morse and keyboardist Jon Lord are seriously gifted players - and lots of fun bluster. Singer Ian Gillan is still able to scream on-key. They played a number of obscure album tracks (including a tasteful blues, "When A Blind Man Cries"), but finished with one of the all-time great metal anthems, "Highway Star."

Ted Nugent was over-the-top as ever, reprising most of the songs from his mid-'70s live album. Fortunately, his set was free of the boneheaded political tirades that clogged up his show with Kiss last summer.

Brett Milano, Boston Herald

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