The Sharp Dressed Simple Man Tour
Photos by Laura Fox (LLFoxphotos) and Andrew Perkins
Reviews by Dave Fox
If you don't understand why the name of this tour is so awesome, you can stop reading right now. If you get it, however, please keep going.
ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd are two names in music that EVERYONE knows. Songs like "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Simple Man," (there, I spelled it out for you) are truly ageless classics, and both bands have deep libraries of songs that have earned them awards, accolades, and millions of fans through the years. To have them both on the same ticket in the Indianapolis area was a treat, for sure.
It was typical mid-August-in-Indiana weather for the show: sweltering heat with humidity around 80%. Everyone was dripping wet with sweat, but that didn't stop them from having a great time.
The night started out with a set from Michigan native Uncle Kracker (AKA Matthew Shafer), the former Kid Rock DJ/vocalist who went solo and ended up turning out some pretty big hits. His set included eight songs, including his first hit, "Follow Me," and a fun cover of Kid Rock's "All Summer Long," which he helped write (and which interestingly samples Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London, which samples Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama." Yeah, get your head around that one). Anyway, Uncle Kracker and his band started out the night on an upbeat note.
Next up was ZZ Top, the bearded wonders from Houston. Although they're one of my favorite bands, I hadn't seen them in awhile, so I was looking forward to their set. We weren't able to catch the first couple of songs, however, because we were hanging out with Peter Keys, the keyboardist from Lynyrd Skynyrd (see note below). Unfortunately, professional photography was only allowed for ZZ Top's first song, so Laura didn't get a chance to take any photos. But we have some pictures Andrew Perkins (Audiophileoholic) took at last year's show, which we're happy to share.
We did catch most of ZZ Top's set, which was just as good as I remembered it. Although they didn't have as much energy as they did last time I saw them, the heat index was over 100 and they were wearing some pretty fancy outfits so I have to cut them some slack. For me, the highlights of the show were a surprisingly bluesy cover of "16 Tons," and when a fan handed up an album for them to sign, which they did - then started to auction off. It was hilarious! The fuzzy guitar and the double-necked bass/guitar were also cool.
Laura really liked when they jammed to "Brown Sugar," a throwback to their first album, which is appropriately titled, ZZ Top's First Album. She also liked the disco balls and bubbles at the end of the final song, "La Grange." I know, those both seem out of place for a band with a sound as gritty as ZZ Top's, but that's part of what Billy Gibbons, Frank Beard and Elwood Francis are all about.
If you want to know more about "That little ol' band from Texas," click here:
Lynyrd Skynyrd, who is celebrating the 50th anniversary of their debut album, (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd), started their set in a really cool way. Before anyone took the stage, the audience was treated to a slideshow of photos depicting the band's history from the beginning until present. There were shots from concerts and in the studio, newspaper headlines, posed group shots and candid moments. As I sat there and soaked them in, I started to realize the tremendous impact Lynyrd Skynyrd has made upon the music scene, and on the world in general. The slideshow was set to AC/DC's "Thunderstruck," which you might think a little odd, but the lyrics really drove home that concept.
The rest of the show was also a bit of a trip down memory lane, and the setlist seemed especially meaningful. The first song, "Workin' for MCA," is about how the band first got signed to a record label. The next tune, "Skynyrd Nation," is a rollicking tribute to their fans. The band played all their big hits, along with a couple we often hear live, including one which Laura and I both especially like, "The Ballad of Curtis Loew."
One especially poignant portion of the performance was an emotionally charged tribute to Gary Rossington, the last remaining original Lynyrd Skynyrd band member, who passed away in March 2023. When Van Zandt introduced the tune, "Tuesday's Gone," and explained the tribute, the crowd erupted into cheers. As the band played the classic, southern-rock ballad, we saw both band-focused and family photos featuring Rossington in a well-done slideshow on the big screen. The family photos, which included his wife, backup singer Dale Krantz Rossington, were a reminder that rock legends are real people, and their loved ones miss them even more than we do.
Although none of the original members of Skynyrd are left, the names and faces are all very familiar to Skynyrd fans, and most of them have been with Skynyrd a long damn time. The current lineup consists Johnny Van Zandt (lead vocals, guitar), Rickey Medlocke (guitar, mandolin, vocals), Michael Cartellone (drums) Peter Keys (keyboards), Keith Christopher (bass), Mark Matejka (guitar, vocals), Damon Johnson (guitar) and backup singers Carol Chase and Stacy Michelle.
In case you were wondering, Johnson started filling in for Rossington in 2021 and has done a remarkable job. He seems like a simple kind of man onstage most of the time, but when he steps into the spotlight, his skill and passion really shine.
Which brings me to the show's finale, "Free Bird." If you've never seen Lynyrd Skynyrd live, it's worth it just to be there for the finale. Even though everyone on stage and in the audience was hot and tired, the energy level in Ruoff surged when the band came back out. And nobody was in their seat for this one.
Even though the band has played "Free Bird" countless times, they always throw themselves into it at every performance. And they always add a little extra to it. I remember that song lasting well over the studio album version's 9 minutes, 8 seconds at their show in 2021, so I timed it this time. It was 11 minutes and 51 seconds. And it was incredible. To feel the full power of the band as the crescendo builds is something I'll never get tired of, and I hope Van Zandt wasn't just teasing when he said Lynyrd Skynyrd will be back in Noblesville in the near future!
For more information about Lynyrd Skynyrd, including upcoming tour dates, click here:
Shoutout to Peter Keys for meeting with Laura and me before the show. He graciously signed a photo Laura took of him in 2018 and took a few minutes to chat with us. He's a standup guy, in addition to being massively talented, and we really enjoyed our time with him. Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo with him, but Laura's photo is right here: