More than 8,000 people flooded the Bangor Waterfront to take in a little Southern comfort as Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Charlie Daniels Band performed Thursday night as part of the Hollywood Slots Waterfront Concert Series.
Lynyrd Skynyrd took the stage around 8:45 p.m., and began with a handful of songs from their more recent albums. By the fourth song, however, it was an almost nonstop hit parade from the band’s deep, beloved back catalog — from the funky “What’s Your Name?” to the edgy “That Smell” and the dirty Southern boogie “I Know a Little.”
Midway through the show, the soulful classic rock standards “Simple Man” and “Tuesday’s Gone” brought the crowd to its feet and inspired a singalong with both songs’ anthemic choruses. The band paid tribute to serving military and veterans alike, and to fallen rock heroes, including some of their own former bandmates. Original members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines were tragically killed in a plane crash in 1977.
Of course, no Skynyrd show is complete without their two biggest hits. “Sweet Home Alabama” ended the set, while “Freebird” was the high octane encore – providing many an opportunity for audience members to shout a request “Freebird” and, for once, actually get what they asked for.
Lynyrd Skynyrd fans Suzette Lawson and Kevin Hill of Bangor were in attendance and were impressed by the large crowd and the enthusiasm of audience members.
“It’s my first time seeing [Lynyrd Skynyrd] and I’m really excited,” said Lawson. “It’s really nice to see a huge crowd. I went to Celtic Woman last week and it was awesome. I think these concerts are a really good addition to Bangor. I want to see Alan Jackson. I like a little of everything, both country and rock.”
The crowd appeared to be well-behaved. According to Tracy Willette of Bangor Parks and Recreation, the audience was fairly relaxed.
“We’re almost halfway through, and it’s been pretty quiet,” said Willette during the break between Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Charlie Daniels Band. “We haven’t really had any issues.”
Opener Charlie Daniels took the stage just after 7 p.m. and by 7:45 had the crowd enthralled by his blend of country, funk and rock. He opened with a blast of high-energy country-funk before segueing into a few slower songs, talking about everything from violent crime and the Second Amendment to veterans and patriotism — all with his trademark blend of humor and outlaw attitude.
“Y’all call this a heat wave?” said Daniels, who sported a belt buckle and a big ol’ white cowboy hat. “Come down to Tennessee, and I’ll show you a heat wave.”
Most of the crowd had taken their seats for opener Daniels though a large number of concert attendees were clustered around the main entrance off Railroad Street. Concertgoers were lined up from the corner of Railroad and Main streets all the way past the new McDonalds by 6 p.m., when the gates opened. A bottleneck at the beer tent meant a very long line for those interested in imbibing during the show, which persisted through most of Daniels’ set. Crowds of people could be seen gathered on the street outside the waterfront, watching from outside the partially see-through blue fence.
By 8 p.m., the rain had mercifully held off and a faint glimpse of blue sky could be seen at one point. A gray haze hung over the Penobscot River and the humidity hovered at around 80 percent. By 10 p.m., it still had not rained.
The crowd was a blend of young and old, with as many kids at the concert with their parents as college students and folks in their 50s and 60s. Steve Charette of Hampden brought his sons Steve Jr. and Alex to the concert, and though he said he didn’t know too much about Charlie Daniels, he called himself a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan.
“I love a lot of the older Skynyrd stuff,” said Charette. “I think these concerts are great for Bangor. It’s really good to see something happen in town. Maybe having this show in the middle of the Bangor State Fair wasn’t such a great idea, but it’s still really fun.”
Caroline Freeman, 20, a University of Maine student originally from Presque Isle, was at the concert with her friend Katie Chenard of Old Town. Freeman’s parents purchased the pair tickets to the show.
“I’m just psyched to see stuff on the waterfront. I always do the folk festival,” said Freeman. “This is a lot bigger than that. There are a ton of people here, but it’s a different crowd. They kind of seem a little more laid-back. I think a lot of people will really be enjoying the beer garden.”