The weather might have cooled off significantly, but The Sharp Dressed Simple Man Tour featuring ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd with special guest Uncle Kracker at the Coastal Credit Union Music Park put a fire in our hearts and souls. I mean, it’s not every day you get to see two phenomenal classic rock legends at one event.
A hodgepodge of song snippets played while Uncle Kracker took to the stage. He started with “Nobody’s Sad on a Saturday Night” and then did a cover of Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long,” which Uncle Kracker said he wrote with his “best friend about a 100 years ago.”
The crowd livened up a lot when he started playing “Follow Me.” Keyboardist Marine Lacoste was the most energetic person onstage, often tossing her long, beautiful red hair about as she played and pointed out to the crowd when she could.
When Uncle Kracker played the cover to “When the Sun Goes Down” by Kenny Chesney, he asked the audience to help sing along.
He ended his set with a cover of “Drift Away.” There wasn’t a lot of banter or crowd interaction, and the times he did talk, it was short and sweet or merely a quick shout out to North Carolina. Overall, his song choices were good and they went over well with the audience, but you could tell the crowd was anxiously awaiting the headliners.
Green and red lights lit up the stage as “Got Me Under Pressure” rang out and bassist Elwood Francis played his 17-string bass. If the bass wasn’t flashy enough, the shoes of Francis and Billy Gibbons sure were. It was fun to watch the synched dance moves we’ve grown to love about ZZ Top, and the crowd screamed out when they shimmied and moved together. But the loudest screams came when Gibbons grinded against his guitar and rubbed it all over him.
During “I Thank You,” a cover song by Sam & Dave, the backscreen showed images of the band members throughout their lifetime; including long-time bassist Dusty Hill (may he rest in peace). It was a beautiful trip down memory lane and a chance to see them as young kids and performing in their younger years. Gibbons reminded us that that they’ve been hanging out with us for over five decades. They played “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Pearl Necklace,” and “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide.”
There was a nice guitar riff after “I Gotsta Get Paid,” when everyone was screaming and hollering, Gibbons said, “Don’t get too excited; we’re just making this shit up.” They then went into “My Head’s in Mississippi.” They ended the set with “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs.”
When they left the stage, everyone shouted “ZZ Top! ZZ Top!” begging them to come back out while the stage lights were all a buzz flashing every which way. When ZZ Top emerged again, they were donned in matching red shoes and jackets. Gibbons told us all they didn’t go anywhere; they just had to change to show off their new jackets.
They played three songs during their fantastic encore, starting with “Brown Sugar.” The audience was asked to sing along with the chorus of “Tube Snake Boogie,” and I have to say we sounded great. During the final song, “La Grange,” Francis twirled in circles while he played the guitar and millions of bubbles shot out from a cannon. Gibbons and Francis put their guitars in front of them and did a little bow before leaving the stage for the final time tonight.
It felt like forever before Lynyrd Skynyrd took the stage, mainly because ZZ Top was so iconic to watch, it was hard to take a break when you wanted the music to continue. Also, I’m not sure what ZZ Top did up there, but that was the first time I had seen the stage get vacuumed before the next performer. Then, just when we couldn’t wait anymore, their 50th anniversary video with the song “Thunderstruck” started to play and before long, all the band members were on stage singing “Workin’ for MCA” and then “Skynyrd Nation.”
Front-man Johnny Van Zant said they’ve been waiting all day to have fun with us and “let’s get ready to rumble” before going into “Whiskey Rock-A-Roller.” He thanked all of us for keeping Lynyrd Skynyrd music alive so long before playing “The Ballad of Curtis Loew.”
Before “Simple Man,” Van Zant had the lights turned on in the crowd so he could see us all and went on to thank all the first responders, paramedics, doctors, and nurses in the crowd. He then said if you can sing, whether you’re from Jacksonville, FL where he’s from, North Carolina, or across the ocean, “we all want to make our mamma happy so this goes out to all the mommas in the house tonight.” “Gimme Three Steps” was next with everyone singing along.
They closed the night with “Sweet Home Alabama,” but the real action and biggest part of the entire show was the encore performance where “Free Bird” was given all the extra attention it deserved.
While some may say Lynyrd Skynyrd is more of a tribute band at this point, being that there are no longer any surviving members of the original band, I say Johnny Van Zant, with the help of Rickey Medlocke (guitar) and Michael Cartellone (drums) are in fact Lynyrd Skynyrd and it’s evident that they take the place of their fallen brothers and sisters with the vigor and passion one would expect.
The concert was amazing: bubbles, a fog cannon, two iconic Hall of Famer bands, and an extra-long version of “Free Bird” at the end was the piece de resistance. What a night with a century worth of musical talent gracing the stage in one night. Unfortunately, the official tour has come to an end, but you can still catch them at festivals and other events in the future. Rock on!