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Concert Reviews:
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bret Michaels Bring Summer Party To DTE
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- One thing about Lynyrd Skynyrd concert; it's the one place where fans can yell for "Free Bird" and be assured the band will play it.

And the Southern rock heroes did on Thursday night (June 24) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre -- saving it for last, of course, and ending their 90-minute show with a nearly 15-minute version that had thousands of fists in the air and lighters held aloft. It was an iconic, if expected, moment -- but, interestingly, not necessarily the marquee moment of the evening.

That was saved for Skynyrd's special guest, newly crowned "Celebrity Apprentice" champion Bret Michaels, who's on the road this summer despite recent health maladies that include an emergency appendectomy, a near-fatal brain hemorrhage and a stroke that led to the discovery of a hole in his heart. That would be enough to take touring out of the equation for most people, but Michaels -- looking healthy and sounding strong during his 50-minute set -- declaring, "Detroit, I'm feeling alright!" as he launched into Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me."

Following opening act .38 Special, Michaels offered many thanks to fans for their will wishes and support during his traumas. The nine-song set, though dogged by an awful sound mix, was just what they wanted to hear, sampling from his upcoming (July 6) album "Custom Built" -- a cover of Sublime's "What I Got" -- but drawing mostly from the Poison songbook, including the group's cover of Loggins & Messina's "Your Mama Don't Dance," "Unskinny Bop" "Fallen Angel," the anthemic "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and "Something to Believe In," which was presented as a tribute to U.S. military personnel. He also injected a rap into "Nothin' But a Good Time" that referenced Kid Rock, Bob Seger and other Detroit music mainstays.

Michaels -- who joined Jimmy Buffett on stage Tuesday (June 22) at DTE and watched the Dave Matthews Band there the following night -- also took every opportunity not only to hype not only "Custom Built" but also his upcoming VH1 reality show "Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It." The underlying message; he's still alive, well and working.

So is Skynyrd, which after the death of eight band members likes to refer to itself as the "all-scar band" -- even adding Michaels to its lineup this year as he joins the group every night for "Sweet Home Alabama." Though only one member, guitarist Gary Rossington, remains from the original lineup, the group still does a solid job of recreating an enduring body of hits such as "Workin' For MCA," "What's Your Name," "Down South Jukin'," "That Smell," "Gimme Three Steps" and "Call Me the Breeze" -- perfect party music for a temperate night out at DTE.

The group did dip into rarities such as "I Ain't the One" and "The Ballad of Curtis Lowe" and cherry-picked a trio of songs -- "Skynyrd Nation," "Still Unbroken" and the title track -- from its 2009 album, "God & Guns." But the 90-minute show was overwhelmingly focused on Skynyrd's heritage, right down to vintage footage on the video screen and tributes to the late band members, particularly original frontman Ronnie Van Zant and the more recently passed Billy Powell and Ean Evans. It's borderline macabre, especially at a point where the band does seem engaged in its new music, but it's also exactly what the Skynyrd nation at DTE wanted on Thursday night.

That, and an opportunity to shout for "Free Bird" yet again.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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