By Chris M. Junior
In summer 1974 — within a month of each other — Skynyrd and Bad Co. made their Billboard Hot 100 chart debuts with “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Can’t Get Enough,” respectively.
This summer, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company are co-headlining a North American tour, and a wide range of fans turned out for the July 17 show at the Susquehanna Bank Center in sweltering Camden, N.J.
Pacing the stage while employing plenty of finger-pointing, arm-waving and “I can’t hear you”-style ear-cupping, singer Johnny Van Zant guided Skynyrd through a well-received set of FM radio favorites from the band’s glory years. “Simple Man” was given a modern-day connection; the song was dedicated to U.S. troops and their families, and the video screen behind the stage flashed images of soldiers in uniform. As expected, Skynyrd’s last song was the epic “Free Bird,” which was accompanied by several visual extras, including a Confederate flag and a bird sculpture on top of Peter Keys’ piano, an American flag tied to Van Zant’s microphone stand and the names of deceased Skynyrd members on the main video screen.
Bad Company’s primary stage prop was a giant black backdrop featuring its angled logo — the one that graced the band’s self-titled debut. Singer Paul Rodgers, guitarist Mick Ralphs and drummer Simon Kirke (who were backed by two touring musicians) leaned heavy on that album, playing material from it during the main set and the encore portion. At 63, Rodgers remains a vocal powerhouse with plenty of stamina to put on a rock ’n’ roll frontman clinic, even on a humid summer night.
The Lynyrd Skynyrd/Bad Company tour continues July 19 in Burgettstown, Pa. That will be followed by shows in Noblesville, Ind. (July 20); Clarkston, Mich. (July 23); Cincinnati (July 24); Gilford, N.H. (July 26); Bethel, N.Y. (July 27); Bethlehem, Pa. (July 29) and a handful of performances in August and September.