Lynyrd Skynyrd: Sweet Home Alabama - The Rockpalast Collection
Taken from the long-running German television series Rockpalast, which continues to air at the time this article was written, this DVD contains two different incarnations of the classic Southern rockers. The main concert features Lynyrd Skynyrd headlining the Loreley Festival on June 23, 1996. At this point in time, the remaining original members of the band are keyboardist Billy Powell, guitarist Gary Rossington, and bassist Leon Wilkeson. Johnny Van Zant, brother of Ronnie who died in the fateful airplane crash of October 1977, has been the lead singer since the band reformed in 1987.
Skynyrd, a band that seems so authentically an American band, and more specifically a Southern band, transcends geography and nationality with their brand of triple-guitar rock. They connect with the enthusiastic German audience, who at one point all sing along in unexpected agreement that “a Southern man don’t need [Neil Young] around anymore.” This bond speaks to universal appeal of both rock ‘n’ roll and the stories of love and lust told in songs like “I Ain’t The One” about potential paternity and “Gimme Three Steps” about dancing with the wrong man’s lady.
The musicians are given opportunities to spread their wings as “Gimme Three Steps” opens with a drum solo by Owen Hale. During “Call Me The Breeze,” Powell is given some solo time on the 88s and the song concludes with the three guitarists each getting some alone time in the spotlight.
Johnny’s vocals dominate the audio mix and the guitars don’t always have a clean sound, but that’s all right. Skynyrd is supposed to be slightly messy. It’s beer-guzzling music meant to be blared out of cars with bad speakers. The band makes gloriously loud, rock ‘n’ roll noise that celebrates life from the bottom to the top as they sing about the bare necessities of life. The DVD audio is available in Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Surround 5.1, and DTS Digital Surround Sound.
For no apparent reason, the makers of the DVD left in almost four minutes of the crowd whistling for the encore before the band returns for “Free Bird.” It's a waste.
The bonus tracks are of the original line-up at the Hamburg Musikhalle on December 5, 1974 when the band was the opening act for Queen. Filmed in 16mm during the first year of Rockpalast, all that remains are three songs (“Workin’ For MCA,” “Free Bird,” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” all of which were in the ’96 set) that run almost 25 minutes. Although more than two decades older, the quality of the audio sounds better.
Skynyrd fans should enjoy the two hours, especially the bonus footage.