There were plenty of free birds in the audience Saturday night, as Lynyrd Skynyrd rocked the Seneca Niagara Casino.
And for most of the show, the band gave them a reason to soar.
From the very beginning of the night, band members made an extremely wise choice by admitting that they weren't the ones in control -- and by openly recognizing who was. Whether it was the full-fist pumping, the twisting and shaking and shimmying, or the wholehearted clap and slap sing-alongs, it was clear the fans were in charge. And according to the band, that seemed just fine.
Looking into the crowd, lead singer Johnny Van Zant remarked about the sea of faces in front of him, and the range that it reflected.
"All sorts of generations are out there," he observed happily. "I gotta make a toast to all you guys. Thank you so much for keeping Lynyrd Skynyrd music alive."
Alive it was. Throughout the show, several songs clearly hit home more than others with the audience. As the opening notes of "Simple Man" broke out, all that could be heard was a resounding "Mama told me," as the crowd took on the slow, calmer Skynyrd song by themselves. The pace picked up with one of the band's more country sounding songs, "Gimme Three Steps," to which much of the audience broke out all kinds of dance moves.
However, it was "Red, White and Blue" that seemed to really make a connection with much of the crowd. Before launching into the track, Van Zant let the audience know it was dedicated to the troops, and proceeded to wrap an American flag around the mic stand. This earned a heavy amount of applause from the proud and patriotic crowd.
Concert favorites also worth mentioning included "Tuesday's Gone," which had the audience swaying and the lighters flickering, and of course, the energetic classic "Sweet Home Alabama," during which Van Zant fittingly turned the mic over to the audience for an entire chorus.
After years of playing the classic rock hits that made them famous, it is clear that Lynyrd Skynyrd know their audience and cater to them completely.
While the band has aged and all of the songs don't sound as clear and powerful as they once were, luckily, in a rock band your voice can sustain a little wear and still sound fit for the music.
Yet whether it was dedicating their songs to the soldiers, waving the Confederate flag, or simply rocking the guitar solos, the band realized how to touch and reach out to their audience, and because of that, the show was probably a complete success in the eyes of many.
Though they knew that their band would return, the crowd still cheered widely for an encore at the end of the night. As Skynyrd made their way back to the stage, Van Zant thanked the crowd for a wonderful night and once again put the control in their hands, knowing full well what the last track would be.
" What song do you guys want to hear tonight?" he asked a widely applauding audience.
"Free Bird!" screamed the fans. And, of course, just like the rest of the night, their wish was granted.