Artimus Pyle Band
The Newton Theatre – Newton, NJ – 11/11/23
Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf
It’s not surprising that Artimus Pyle, drummer of the legendary 1970s Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, continues to perform to impassioned crowds along with his band, the Artimus Pyle Band. The beloved music of Lynyrd Skynyrd is part of the foundation of Southern rock and has been influential to all the bands who’ve followed in their wake. In his current band, Pyle has surrounded himself with stellar musicians and dynamic vocalists, who expertly showcase and pay tribute to the iconic music of Skynyrd, encouraging Skynyrd devotees to attend performances and immerse themselves in the sound, energy and spirit of the band they fell in love with a half-century ago.
On November 11th, The Newton Theatre was packed with eager fans, bubbling with excitement from the moment they entered the venue doors. Most of these spirited audience members were avid fans not only of the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd but also the Artimus Pyle Band. This was clearly evident by the response to lead guitarist Jerry Lyda’s question, “How many of you are at an Artimus Pyle Band performance for the first time?” With only a smattering of hands raised in the crowd, it was evident the theater was filled with passionate fans of Artimus Pyle and his band, who were eager to experience another evening of beloved Skynyrd music.
From the moment the band opened with Pyle’s heavy rhythmic drum beats on “Saturday Night Special,” from Skynyrd’s 1975 album Nuthin’ Fancy, Pyle’s first with Skynyrd, the energy and spirit of the band and the audience members hit full speed and remained at a peak level throughout the performance. Even at 75 years old there was never a moment when Pyle didn’t play with the passion and the skills that initially made him the iconic Skynyrd drummer he was and continues to be. Lead guitar players, Scott Raines and Jerry Lyda both played electrifying guitar, whether joining forces for powerful jams or individually showcasing their masterful guitar skills. On several occasions the two were joined for three-way jams with the band’s perpetually smiling, effusive bassist Dave Fowler. At times your attention couldn’t help but be drawn to Fowler, as his joy in the music and the performance was abundantly on display.
Brad Durden on keys and lead vocals, performed with incredibly powerful, piercing vocals, as his hands moved up and down the two sets of keys during the most upbeat numbers, including “That Smell,” “What’s Your Name,” “The Needle and the Spoon” and “Whiskey Rock-a-Roller,” to the dramatic, touching numbers, including “Simple Man,” “Tuesday’s Gone” and of course the band’s iconic hit “Free Bird.” Sharing lead vocal duties throughout the performance was Raines, who sang with dynamic range and diversity on songs including, “Gimme Three Steps,” “The Ballad Of Curtis Loew,” “Street Survivor” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s anthem “Sweet Home Alabama.”
I often attend performances and find myself marveling at the number of audience members getting up from their seats, buying refreshments, using the restrooms, etc. At times the theater looks like it has a revolving door. However, I did not observe this on November 11th, even with a packed house. Rather, the crowd was fully engaged, mesmerized, many singing along…lost in the memories the music provoked. While the singing in the crowd remained relatively subdued for a majority of the set, it was impossible for these avid Skynyrd devotees to not fully throw themselves in, with heart, soul and vocals, when the band performed two numbers that forever defined Lynyrd Skynyrd, and 1970s Southern rock, the positive spirit of “Sweet Home Alabama” and the heartache of “Free Bird.”
The Artimus Pyle Band continues to pay tribute to the iconic music of Lynyrd Skynyrd with phenomenal expertise and heartfelt passion. Having lost guitarist Gary Rossington this year, the last original Skynyrd member, Artimus Pyle remains the final touchstone to the band’s 1970s line-up. It’s no wonder avid Skynyrd fans flock to performances to immerse themselves in the sound and spirit of the band they fell in love with almost five decades ago and to experience the energy, passion and devotion that IS Artimus Pyle.