For some rock ‘n’ roll fans, Tuesday night might have seemed like a mission impossible for the Doobie Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
But for the two classic rock groups, it was a mission accomplished.
Whether they were aware of it or not, the groups had to prove they were just as good, if not better, without a few key players.
Although the Doobie Brothers have returned with core members Tom Johnston, Patrick Simmons, Michael Hossack, John McFee and Keith Knudsen, the group was missing brother Michael McDonald, who had a voice in 27 chart hits for the band.
Lynyrd Skynyrd has undergone a complete facelift with only one founding member, Gary Rossington, remaining. In an earlier interview, lead singer Johnny Van Zant, brother of the late band member Ronnie Van Zant, admitted this was not the same Skynyrd.
“That will never be again,” he said and then evaded the question of whether this Skynyrd was as good or better than the original with: “I think that’s something that the fans will have to make up their minds about.”
If the screams and applause of the 8,000 fans at the Tupelo Coliseum was any indication, both bands were still classically good ol’ rock ‘n’ rollers.
The Doobie Brothers came out with the pedal to the metal as they cranked out “Dangerous.” Clad in rock ‘n’ roll attire characteristic of the ’70s and ’80s – black jeans, muscle-cut T-shirts and leather – the group took the audience back a few decades. Guitarmen Johnston, Simmons, McFee and Skylark led the band’s front line, stroking out an electric sound on hits like “South City Midnight Lady” and “Excited.”
Johnston broke out first on lead vocals on “Rockin,” and then shared the honors with Simmons. With guitars, drums, bongos and saxophone, the eight-member band combined for an eclectic sound as they introduced “Wild Ride” and “Slow Burn” off their upcoming album.
Twenty-four years after their start, the Doobie Brothers upheld their legendary status as they ended with the ever-popular “Black Water,” “Take Me in Your Arms” and “Long Train Running.” After a thunderous plea from the crowd, the Doobies powerfully encored with “China Grove” and “Listen To The Music.”
The coliseum continued to buzz even as Lynyrd Skynyrd inconspicuously took the stage.
“How ’bout it Tupelo,” lead singer Johnny Van Zant said out of nowhere, and then the long-haired, rebellious rockers filtered their heavy sounds throughout the coliseum, beginning with “Working for the MCA.”
Backed by a huge Confederate flag, Van Zant and company were rebels with causes as they raged on with “Jukin'” “Double Trouble,” “What’s Your Name,” and “Simple Man.”
With four guitars, a piano, strong percussion and voices, Skynyrd’s music was as forceful as ever.
Van Zant promised to “boogie,” and the audience was never still as Skynyrd hammered out “I Know A Little,” “Saturday Night Special” and “Gimme Three Steps.”
In the end, the new Skynyrd left in glory as they brought the concert to a head with its signature and timeless Southern favorites “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird.”