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Posted on June 22, 2010

Today sees the release of the LYNYRD SKYNYRD’S CD/DVD live extravaganza Live From Freedom Hall.

The release showcases the band’s performance at Freedom Hall, Louisville, Kentucky on 15th June 2007 and features some of the classic band’s best-known tracks. The performance is also the last to feature founding member/keyboardist Billy Powell and longtime bassist, Ean Evans who sadly passed away in 2009, during the recording of the band’s last studio album, GOD & GUNS.

Our colleagues over in the USA got vocalist Johnny Van Zant on the phone recently to chat to him about the show/release and he walked us through, track by track:

Travelin’ Man
“That’s kind of like a duet thing that me and my brother did, and to be able to sing with him was pretty awesome. Years ago we had it on our record and for live, I think for Skynyrd fans to be able to see Ronnie up there actually singing and then it comes back to me on stage I think it’s just a very cool thing for fans and I always love doing that. Our dad was a truck driver and we’ve been travelin’ men our whole life. Ronnie for 29 years was a travelin’ man, ‘til his untimely death. And for me I’ve been doing it for about 30 something years. So it’s just a very cool song and for anybody.”

“Well I think that goes back to our upbringing. We always have worked in our life and our fans are working class people and that’s what we believe in doing — we’re probably one of the hardest working bands out there and have always been out there every year. Where a lot of other bands take off, we’re out there playing for our fans. And you know its something like ‘I’m gonna buy my baby shoes’ I have kids in college and I have to buy them shoes! (Laughs) …and keep ‘em fed! So thanks to the Skynyrd Nation we’re still around. And we’re actually playing it this year coming up. We change our set up here and there, there’s so many great Lynyrd Skynyrd songs. We know we have to do “Freebird”, “Sweet Home” and those kind of things, but that song was just a statement, we think of our fans as the working class of America –or all around. [Even] when we’re in Europe they’re the working class so we like doing that one. It’s an up tempo thing, it’s in your face and that’s us.”

What’s Your Name?
“Well that is just a great hit song. Most Skynyrd people don’t realize that was the highest charting song that Lynyrd Skynyrd ever had as far as the top 100 singles and it was a top 10 song, I’m not sure exactly how far it went but it went up there quite a ways. And it’s just a great song, great feel [good] song. You can always tell that the crowd loves that, which is why we pretty much keep that in our set every year. I mean the crowd, especially the ladies — that one’s for the ladies.”

That Smell
“Well, ‘That Smell’ what a great song. That’s something Skynyrd’s always been about: true things that we’ve written about, and that’s definitely a true thing. We’ve all lived true our days of doing things that probably weren’t good for us (laughs). That one there with the audience you can definitely smell that smell if you get my drift.”

Simple Man
“Well that’s a great song and something that I think we all live by. I think anybody out there needs to respect their mother, and the words of their mother. It’s mama talking to you in that song and I think it’s probably one of my favorite’s if not my favorite to do live. It’s just a great song and that one stays in the set and the crowd always goes crazy on that one. Actually I just saw Lee [DeWyze] from American Idol do part of it a couple of weeks ago. Thought that was pretty neat.”

Down South Jukin
“Well that one’s just another fun up-tempo thing and I think that’s part of a medley. We’re from the south and just love doing that one; it just gets the crowd so much and to go from “Simple Man” into that just makes your blood start going up a little bit too, it’s a lot of fun.”

The Needle and The Spoon
“That’s a rare, really an obscure Skynyrd song. I mean not everybody knows “Needle and The Spoon” but we love doing it live just the whole riff the way it starts out and we’ve been doing it for many, many years.”

Ballad of Curtis Loew
“Well that one everybody does know. If you’re a Skynyrd fan you know “Curtis Loew” and again it just kind of brings the tempo down and just kind of lets us get that back porch feel.”

Gimme Back My Bullets
“Again that song it just in your face and that song’s pretty cool. The story behind that song and the reason why we like doing it is that when Skynyrd, when that album came out, everybody used to throw bullets at them because they thought it meant that, but what it really meant was on the Billboard charts it had a bullet besides it meaning it was doing really good, and the album before that, before Give Me Back My Bullets didn’t do quite as well as the first two. So this was something saying give us back our bullets, we’re here and in your face. It’s in your face so we love doing it.”

Tuesday’s Gone
Again just a great ballad, up there with Simple Man. Fans love it, and we can hear a little bit of harmonica on that one and sometimes the fans sing louder on that one than when I’m singing at all. That’s one thing about Skynyrd, I’m kind of like the head cheerleader and we love for the crowd to get into it. I can understand people sitting and listening to the music, but for Skynyrd it’s, ok let’s take your worries away for a couple hours and let’s have fun.”

Red, White and Blue
“Well that’s one that was off an album called Vicious Cycle. We’re big supporters of our troops and we’ve always felt that’s a Skynyrd crowd; we always go back to our fans, we write about our fans and we love our fans. We’ve been blessed to have fans with us for years and years and years for multi-generations now and we’re supporters of our troops and our families. That song is basically written about our fans.”

Gimme Three Steps
“That’s our time to turn it up not to 10 but 11 and try to go out the night at 11. That’s also just a fun, boogie, sing-along song that we’ve done forever, we’re going to be doing it this coming year and it’s just an all around good song, good party song.”

Call Me The Breeze
“Call Me The Breeze’ is an old J.J. Cale song that the band recorded years and years ago. Again it just keeps up – we go from “Three Steps” to “The Breeze” and the crowd just loves it and so do we. By that time in the set we’re ready to go to “Alabama” and “Freebird” you know? So it really pumps us up, not only the crowd but it pumps us up too.”

Sweet Home Alabama
“I think “Sweet Home” is something that, we’ve been the ambassadors of Alabama for years –they should give us the state award for spreading the word [laughs] but that song is just a timeless song. And you had Kid Rock last year with “All Summer Long” which used part of it and numerous movies and what can you say about it really except for that it’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’?”

“Well that is a timeless song, that and “Stairway to Heaven”. For years Skynyrd has always closed the show with that song and the song has different meanings for different people. Somebody was telling me, it’s graduation time right now, this kid was telling me that they used it for their graduation song and not too long ago somebody told me that they used it at a funeral. And really it’s a love song, its one of the few that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ever had. It’s about a guy and a girl. Of course at the end it was dedicated to Duane Allman from the band Allman Brothers because it goes into the guitar part. That one there if you can get through that one you’ve had a good night at a Skynyrd show.”

You can pick up ‘Live From Freedom Hall as a digital release on all the usual platforms or as a CD/DVD package in all good record stores and online HERE.

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