You may not have pegged the British hard rock institution Bad Company as the likely tour partner for southern rock rebels Lynyrd Skynyrd, but then again, stranger things have happened.
The Red, White, and Blue met the Union Jack on stage outside Washington, D.C. for what became a night of unbridled rock passion and enough guitar riffs to melt one’s face. And that was before Lynyrd Skynyrd even stepped on stage.
Trading off opening and closing sets each night of the tour, it was Bad Co.’s turn to start.
The band has made a habit of being somewhat of a rarity on the concert circuit, picking out small tours as they please every few years. They haven’t toured the United States since 2010. Like Skynyrd, the band celebrates 40 years since their fiery start with the seminal, self-titled ‘Bad Company’ record.
Frontman Paul Rodgers emerged with an air of confidence that must come with knowing you possess a voice as strong as a military weapon.
Aging just doesn’t seem to happen for the singer, who has retained every bit of his prowess behind the microphone. Through more than 40 years of Bad Company, Free, The Firm, and even Queen incarnations, Rodgers in 2013 sounds more like he hopped in a time capsule right after recording Desolation Angels in 1979.
Hearing him deliver each lyric with sharp, unmistakable authority is simply a stunning experience.
The rest of the ‘company’ complete a circuit of rock and roll perfection. Nearing 70, Mick Ralphs is still blistering on guitar. His partner in crime is former Heart axeman Howard Leese, who fits into the mold with ease.
On drums is a third original player, Simon Kirke. Todd Roning rounds out the lineup on bass.
The no-nonsense setlist flowed like a work of art from a rapid opening pace, to a cooler tempo in the middle of the set with “Electicland”. By the time the crowd heated up again for “Can’t Get Enough”, there was no turning back.
“Bad Company”, the title track for the ages, closed out a set which left many fans stammering in awe.
“That was worth the price of admission right there,” said one of them.
With the floor now wiped by Rodgers, Lynyrd Skynyrd were greeted by a thunder of applause from the crowd of more than 10,000.
Their catalog speaks for itself. “Freebird”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, and “What’s Your Name” are more institutions than songs at this point in time.
Johnny Van Zant carried the show nicely, setting his gruff but accurate voice loose on the catalog while sandwiched between the guitar assault of Rickey Medlocke and Gary Rossington.
For a band with such a tumultuous past, there was a surprising sense of stability in watching its nine performers interact on stage.
Their new album last year, which peaked at #14 on the Billboard 200, cemented a new Skynyrd.
Half the band are rock legends, and the other half are skilled supporting players worthy of all the bright lights and cheers that come with being in Lynyrd Skynyrd.
After the tour wraps, they’ll take the show on the water again for the annual ‘Simple Man’ cruise this October. For those who can’t get enough, this just might be the ticket./
And so the odd couple comprised of two rock institutions across the pond from each other left the stage having blended together much more harmoniously than expected. The sheer weight of their combined legendary status in the world of music is enough to carry this tour through, and perhaps merit a second.