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Usually its just a joke and we make it one. We tell the crowd for $1500 cash right now we will do it and it will be awful. It most likely will be in the wrong key, the lyrics will be almost totally wrong and won't sound much like freebird. LOL
No its freebird. Most of the time the drunks yelling it don't even know what it is. Just like the other night when someone yelled slayer and I answered with reciting the chorus of seasons he was like Wtf?
Strangely enough - Freebird doesn't seem to be a tired staple for most of the cover bands in my area. In my case I played close to 30 years before ever playing the tune. One of my projects put together a shortened version of the tune - and will actually pull it out every now and then on slower nights - just to surprise the clowns yelling "Freebird!!!!". Surprisingly - more often than not it goes over reasonably well.
Strangely enough the rhythm guitarist/singer at a rehearsal I was filling in at started that as a joke and everyone jumped in (neither I nor the drummer had played it at all and the lead player had only noodled it at home) and it ended up not quite like the record LOL but I thought it sounded third set "everyone's had a few" bar ready. It really isn't that hard of a song.
Seriously, if you're gonna do it, do it right. It's a super arranged (as all Skynyrd stuff is) tune, and if you "hack" thru it, you become the joke. It's not a jam song, although it kinda sounds like it. Very little room for improvising.
And if you play it right, you're gonna get a good response if you are in a band that plays at least a little 70's stuff. If you play it right, you'll be surprised at just how powerful a song it really is.
I was in a super popular modern rock cover band in the early 2k's doing Rage, Bizkit, 311, Staind etc. We did a few classic rock tunes and I convinced the guys to do Stairway. We had a huge light show and pyro and the whole bit, and did it at the end of the night or at the end of the 3rd set. And we did it note for note and just NAILED it. And it KILLED every time.
People make fun of those two tunes, but they are ridiculously powerful when done correctly and are virtually irresistible in the right circumstance.
"Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work" - Gustave Flaubert
Actually I suppose I'm the exception in that if I was stuck on a desert island with only two tunes I wouldn't be unhappy with those two. But I also brought "Call Me Maybe" into one of my groups so my taste is highly suspect - or maybe I like playing songs that people want to hear .