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Can We Please Hear 'More' Than the Classics?

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Can We Please Hear 'More' Than the Classics?

15 May 2015

Simon Bray

This is what I wrote in my most recent Listening Room about my activities in the last week or so: "I have had a fairly hectic gig schedule recently. I saw both Lynyrd Skynyrd and Rodriguez at Manchester Apollo and whilst I enjoyed both I had reservations. Skynyrd were excellent (although Mrs Simon thought there were too many guitars!) However, the lack of post 1977 songs for me definitely added weight to the oft-cited tribute band allegation. The band has made some tremendous records since the reformation and it would be great to hear some (quite a few) more often."

Pete Pardo responded thus:
"Skynyrd-you hit the nail on the head. They've released some great material since the 1991 album, and it's a real shame they don't play any of it. Not even 'Red White & Blue' which was a hit for them a decade or so ago (something my wife laments about every time we go see them). Granted, they are still a fantastic live band, and I've gone to see them on their last 3 tours here, but I am skipping this year to take a break as they just don't alter the set whatsoever. That's a given here in the States, as classic rock fans only want to hear their favourites from the radio (zzzzzz) but I guess they do the same thing over in your neck of the woods. I thought their last 3 albums were very strong, and not a tune off any of them will they play on stage. Damn Shame..."

I replied with:
"I really like God and Guns even though I disagree politically with every word of it. I saw them in 1992 and they played quite a bit off 1991 and I saw them in 1997 again and there were songs from Twenty. I appreciate they don't have a new album at the moment but it smacks of a lack of artistic integrity if you ask me especially given that only Gary Rossington played on the "classic" material."

This correspondence led me to wonder what we expect from heritage acts such as Skynyrd. Are we happy with setlists comprising just the classics or do we want them to show some, for want of a better word, authenticity? Do they lack faith in the newer material? Would everybody dive towards the bar if a new song was aired? I wouldn't but do heritage acts only play to what I like to call the milf-market? I appreciate that the hits are the main currency upon which classic rock acts get booked into still large venues. There were 3500 pretty happy fans when I saw Skynyrd as the performance was excellent but have they really produced nothing of consequence in the almost quarter of a century since the 1991 album? I know that I still regularly listen to 1991, The Last Rebel, Twenty, Edge of Forever and God & Guns in particular. I'm less sold on Vicious Cycle and Last of a Dyin' Breed but I would be very happy to hear material from any of these records. Surely it isn't too fanciful to play a couple of new tunes is it? I'm not just laying into Skynyrd either. In the last few years I've seen Foreigner, Styx and others play sets as if the 90s onwards didn't exist. The same goes for the plethora of live albums such as REO's Live at Moondance Jam which could have been recorded twenty-five years ago given the songs featured.

Don't get me wrong, I love the classics but new material from heritage acts would be fantastic especially as most of them won't be around for that much longer. Now, what about those classic rock artists who never leave the shore of the USA..?

Simon Bray


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