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Lynyrd Skynyrd Lyve:
The Vicious Cycle Tour
featuring: Johnny Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Rickey Medlocke and Hughie Thomasson

producer and director: Jon Small
120 minutes (E) 2003 widescreen ratio 14:9
Sanctuary NTSC DVD Region 0 retail
[released 29 March]

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Richard G. Vander
Celebrating 30 years of blue-collar rock 'n' roll, Lynyrd Skynyrd Lyve offers all the spectacle of a glossy stadium-rock production that captures the essence of hard country rock with an hearty cowboy R 'n' B influence. What is often derided as the bog-standard hairy-mercenary 'wrinkly rock' show is honed to perfection here by this ultimate redneck dinosaur act from the American Southlands. (And I mean that as a great compliment to their longevity of course!)
   Lynyrd Skynyrd remain one of the hardest working US bands, but they have a history beset by tragedy. Frontman Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and singer Cassie Gaines all died in a plane crash in 1977, just when they were getting started. More recently, in July 2001, the band lost bass player Leon Wilkeson - who died of natural causes, but in no less trying circumstances. When the band reformed, Johnny replaced his brother Ronnie as lead vocalist, Ean Evans has since replaced Wilkeson, and the Skynyrd legend goes on. Filmed with HD video cameras at the Amsouth Amphitheatre, in Nashville on 11 July 2003, this two-hour concert brings together many of Lynyrd Skynyrd's best songs, a genuinely entertaining medley of notable tracks, and new material from the band's Vicious Cycle album.
   With a confederate flag and a rebel yell, a stage stacked with casks and barrels, four guitars and honky-tonk piano melodies, this is working class rock performed with muscular style, easygoing moral values, and always-impressive vitality. Only the likes of Tom Petty can really compete with these guys! It's foot-stomping stuff throughout, with the band's new line-up enhanced by horns, and a string section adding a touch of class to several numbers, ending with Skynyrd's rightly famous hit Freebird (perhaps the ultimate air guitar anthem?), with its seemingly endless slide theme and searing riffs. Lucky Man, which plays over the main show's final credits, supplements the 20 tracks listed. This region-free disc is an unqualified technical and musical success, and is surely an essential buy for all fans of quality US rock.
   The DVD has Dolby digital 2.0 stereo, 5.1 surround and 5.1 DTS sound options. Disc extras: text-only band biography, photo gallery, music video for Red, White And Blue (six minutes), official merchandise info, plus an advert for the bourbon makers who backed the tour.

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