WATCH: Lynyrd Skynyrd Blow Away Oakland Coliseum with ‘Freebird’ in 1977

by Charles Craighill
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On July 2 of 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd closed their set with “Free Bird” for their Day on the Green at Oakland Coliseum. Needless to say, the crowd lost their minds. After a set that included an absolutely ripping “Sweet Home Alabama,” the hit song really put a cap on the performance. This 1977 concert might have been the band’s strongest showing.

Ronnie Van Zant leads the band vocally wearing a top hat and a cool, I’ve-been-here-before demeanor. Founding Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington throws on the slide for the beautiful lead sounds. Those two figures take the lead for the bulk of the verses and chorus, but the second half hits different.

Once the song leads into that jam section with an instrumental build, the crowd goes wild. Allen Collins and Billy Powell begin the jam. Powell rips a piano solo in his classic style of hard rock mixed with beautiful jazz. After a while, Collins begins sneaking in with his blazing fast guitar riffs. both trade the spotlight back and forth for some time before the peak.

The Epic Peak

Once the jam starts ripping and rolling, Lynyrd Skynyrd starts gaining steam. The crowd erupts with excitement as the instruments all start to join in. As Allen starts to hit the high, fast riffs, the multi-talented guitarist Steve Gaines joined in, harmonizing the riffs. With two guitarists building the same lead lines, the sound starts blasting exponentially.

Finally, bassist Leon Wilkerson joins that building jam. He starts climbing the neck of the bass like the Himalayas, joining the guitarists at the peak. All four of the instrumentalists scale up and down, hammering on and pulling off and shaking the stadium. Finally, the song reaches its peak with all guitarists strumming with all their might. Then, the song comes to an end.

Why Was 1977 Lynyrd Skynyrd So Good?

Without question, the 1977 line up of Lynyrd Skynyrd was among the strongest, for several reasons. For starters, a band only gets better with time, at least for the most part. The more a band plays together, the more they can read each other and perform live.

Beyond that, Lynyrd Skynyrd picked up Steve Gaines a few years earlier. Steve Gaines might have been the most talented member of the band ever. His innovation on guitar and his songwriting skills made him an invaluable member of the crew. Unfortunately, the band only enjoyed his presence for a few years, as he along with several other members of the band died in a plane crash just three months after the Oakland Coliseum performance.

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