By Kristen Browning-Blas
The Denver Post
Delayed by a powerful thunderstorm that briefly knocked out power to the Greeley Stampede Arena after opening band Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ played Saturday night, the nine members of Lynyrd Skynyrd strode onto the main stage to the strains of AC/DC. Thanking the “good lord” for clearing the skies, the band opened with “What’s Your Name?” and rocked through a greatest hits compilation that lasted just short of two hours.
When lightning gives way to stars, the crowd is full of Coors, and the crowd knows the words to every song, the band can do no wrong on stage. And they didn’t musically, but after the show, some fans complained on Skynyrd’s Facebook page about the band’s use of the Confederate flag.
Midway through the show, a Dixie flag appeared, wrapped around lead singer Johnny Van Zhant’s mike stand. Several songs later, the Stars and Stripes replaced the Southern Cross.
Whether they saw the Rebel flag as a racist symbol of oppression, or a raised fist for regional identity, just about everyone in the crowd, from the old ladies to a group of teenage girls, succumbed to the desire to play air guitar as Gary Rossington and Rickey Medlocke strutted across the stage.
As fans two-stepped and belly-slid in the mud of the arena floor, the sign-language interpreter on stage-right kept pace with a dynamic performance of her own.
Just as a faint odor of weed floated over the crowd (most seemed to prefer Marlboros to marijuana), the interpreter turned to her colleague and seemed to ask “how do you sign ‘smell’?’ The answer was an upturned hand swiped across the nose as the band played, you guessed it, “That Smell.”
Despite the obvious candidate for next-day humming, “Simple Man” echoed in my head all day Sunday instead. The song, simple lyrics about a father’s advice to his son, was accompanied by a slide-show tribute to the military on the giant screen behind the stage. (Need more? Sign up for the “Simple Man Cruise” this October with the band.)
I wondered if the anti-gun message of “Saturday Night Special” resonated with the crowd, who chanted along with nearly every line: “handguns are made for killin’/they ain’t no good for nuthin’ else…”
Of course, seeing Skynyrd live gave fans a chance to yell, unironically, “Free Bird!” and the band obliged, playing the anthem as its last song — no encore. After all, the only sound that should follow “Free Bird” is silence and a slight ringing in the ears.
1. Call Me the Breeze
2. What’s Your Name
3. I Ain’t the One
4. Down South Jukin’
5. That Smell
6. You Got That Right
7. Simple Man
8. Poison Whiskey
9. Double Trouble
10. Don’t Ask Me No Questions
11. Swamp Music
12. Mississippi Kid
13. I Know a Little
14. Saturday Night Special
15. Gimme Three Steps
16. Sweet Home Alabama
17. Free Bird
Kristen Browning-Blas is the Food Editor at The Denver Post.