By Chuck Cox

Special Contributor

lynrd skynrdOf the hundreds of times I’ve been at a concert and heard some chucklehead yell “Free Bird!” to a band, it was finally (somewhat) acceptable on Wednesday night.

Which can only mean one thing — I finally saw Lynyrd Skynyrd. As if that wasn’t cool enough, Bad Company and Denton rockers Slobberbone were also on the bill at Verizon Theatre. And it was the first time for me to see either of those bands, too.

I actually hemmed and hawed about going to this show, billed as the 40th Anniversary Tour, because of ticket prices. However, prices on select seats got slashed, so I picked up a cheap ticket just a few days before the show. Good decision.

With a tragic history and two of the most iconic songs ever written (“Sweet Home Alabama” and the aforementioned “Free Bird”), Lynyrd Skynyrd is the embodiment of rock and roll. The band popularized Southern rock, and finally getting to seeing it play live was a treat. You could feel the pride and enthusiasm of lead singer Johnny Van Zant and the rest of the band, which is still churning out new material. But it also knows what the crowd came to hear.

Skynyrd opened with “What’s Your Name,” and played a strong 90-minute set of 13 songs that had the majority of the fans on their feet most of the night. The band also played homage to the armed forces of the United States by dedicating “Simple Man” to the troops. Images of servicemen and servicewomen flashed across the video screen during the song.

Van Zant played to the crowd the whole night, encouraging it to clap and sing along. It was a really fun show. Skynyrd closed with its two biggest songs, ending the night with “Free Bird” as a tribute to the victims of the 1977 plane crash that killed three band members and three others.

Seeing Bad Company with legendary lead singer Paul Rodgers was also pretty spectacular. The band still has three original members — Rodgers, Simon Kirke, and Mick Ralphs. And, man, did it sound like it could have been playing  a show in its heyday. Rodgers’ voice was perfect. And the band looked like it was having a ball playing together.

It’s easy to forget how many Bad Company songs are so recognizable. Like Skynyrd, Bad Company also played 13 songs, although its set was only a little bit more than an hour. Starting with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy,” the English rockers belted out the likes of “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” “Shooting Star,” “Can’t Get Enough,” and the eponymous “Bad Company.”

Getting to see and hear Rodgers, who has toured off and on with the band over the last couple of decades, live was worth the price of admission. Such a treat.

And I can’t ignore Slobberbone. I’m ashamed this was my first time to see the band, mainly because it was absolutely an awesome show. Even though it only had 30 minutes, Slobberbone made the most of it. The band sounded fantastic, and even though I wasn’t familiar with any of its songs, every one of them sounded great. It will not be my last time to see Slobberbone.

This was definitely one of the better bills I’ve seen this year, although I have seen some really awesome shows. This is going to be concert year I look back on as seeing more legendary performers in a calendar year than I ever have before. I’ve already got Eric Clapton, the Zombies, Prince, Jimmy Buffett, Jackson Browne, Rodriguez, George Strait and Alice Cooper on the list.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’ll be seeing Pearl Jam on July 19 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. I might need a couple of blog posts to tell you about that show.