Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top Rock Ruoff
The two iconic bands join forces for the “Sharp Dressed Southern Man Tour”, and it’s an absolute blowout, despite the losses of a founder of both bands.
It was a night of mixed emotions for Southern rock fans at the Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana, on August 20, 2023. The legendary Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top shared the stage for their Sharp Dressed Southern Man Tour, but it was also the first Skynyrd tour since the death of founding member and guitarist Gary Rossington on March 5, 2023.
Rossington was the last surviving original member of the band that gave us classics like “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Free Bird” and “Simple Man”. He had been battling health issues for years, and had to miss several shows due to heart problems. His death marked the end of an era for one of the most influential and enduring bands in rock history. The video tribute to Gary, of him backstage, interacting on the tours, and just laughing caused me to tear up during the band’s immortal “Tuesday’s Gone.”
But Skynyrd did not let grief stop them from putting on a hell of a show. They started with a video tribute to Rossington, followed by a set of songs from their entire career, spanning five decades. They also honored their other fallen comrades, such as Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Billy Powell, with photos and videos on the big screens. They also played “The Ballad of Curtis Loew”, a song about a black dobro player that’s rarely heard live anymore, because some people are easliy offended. Kudos to Johnny for bringing that back.
The crowd sang along to every word, waving their lighters and cell phones in the air. The band sounded tight and powerful, with Johnny Van Zant’s vocals capturing the spirit of his brother Ronnie, and Rickey Medlocke and Mark Matejka filling in admirably for Rossington on guitar. The highlight of the night was the epic finale of “Free Bird”, which featured a soaring guitar solo by guest star Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. Standout performances by the incredible piano wizardry of Peter Keys, who always delivers, and the lovely “Honkettes”, Carole Chase and Stacy Michelle. These women don’t get enough recognition, but are as talented as they are beautiful. I’ve seen and photographed Skynyrd at least ten times over the last couple decades, and tonight was probably the best performance I’ve seen, lasting just over 90 minutes.
ZZ Top had their own set before Skynyrd, and they were no slouches either. Playing thier songs and having a good time, for about 80 minutes, he Texas trio delivered a blistering set of blues-rock hits, such as “La Grange”, “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs”. They also paid homage to their own departed member, Dusty Hill, who died in 2021. Gibbons and Frank Beard were joined by longtime friend Elwood Francis on bass and vocals, who did a fine job of keeping Hill’s legacy alive.
The two bands shared a mutual respect and admiration, as they have toured together several times over the years. It was a rare treat to see two of the greatest rock bands ever on the same stage, rocking out like they were still in their prime.
The Sharp Dressed Southern Man Tour was a celebration of life, music and friendship. It was also a reminder of how much we owe to Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top for their contributions to rock and roll. They may have lost some members along the way, but they have never lost their spirit or their fans. They are true legends, and we are lucky to have them.
July 21 – West Palm Beach, FL @ iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre
July 22 – Tampa, FL @ MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre
July 23 – Alpharetta, GA @ Ameris Bank Amphitheatre
July 28 – Rogers, AR @ Walmart AMP
July 29 – Fort Worth, TX @ Dickies Arena
July 30 – Woodlands, TX @ The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Aug. 7 – Denver, CO @ Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre
Aug. 10 – Mountain View, CA @ Shoreline Amphitheatre
Aug. 11 – Wheatland, CA @ Toyota Amphitheatre
Aug. 13 – Phoenix, AZ @ Ak-Chin Pavilion
Aug. 17 – Maryland Heights, MO @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre – St. Louis, MO
Aug. 19 – Tinley Park, IL @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre – Chicago, IL
Aug. 20 – Noblesville, IN @ Ruoff Music Center
Aug. 25 – Cincinnati, OH @ Riverbend Music Center
Aug. 26 – Clarkston, MI @ Pine Knob Music Theatre
Aug. 27 – Toronto, ON @ Budweiser Stage
Sept. 1 – Charlotte, NC @ PNC Music Pavilion
Sept. 2 – Columbia, MD @ Merriweather Post Pavilion
Sept. 3 – Burgettstown, PA @ The Pavilion at Star Lake
Sept. 8 – Saratoga Springs, NY @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Sept. 9 – Hershey, PA @ Hersheypark Stadium
Sept. 10 – Holmdel, NJ @ PNC Bank Arts Center
Sept. 15 – Raleigh, NC @ Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek
Sept. 16 – Ocean City, MD @ Ocean City Bike Fest
Sept. 17 – Camden, NJ @ Freedom Mortgage Pavilion