The popularity of George Winston is puzzling. The folk/pop pianist is gifted neither as an instrumentalist nor as a composer, but his quiet, simple pieces obviously fill some sort of need. Nevertheless, those calm, dry works, which he played in two weekend shows at the Universal Amphitheatre, proved to be almost unlistenable.

On Friday, Winston offered such meditative, moribund numbers as "Moon," which featured Philip Glass-style repeating passages with slight variations, and "January Stars," which went on for what seemed like forever. Much-needed freshness was provided by works like "Cat and Mouse," a lively stride number, but Winston is no jazzer and he seemed ill at ease, playing brittle, stuttering right-hand notes on top of hopping left-hand figures. This work, and many others, could have used some gutsy abandon, which would have made Winston's concert bearable, or for the fans that slept through it, even a tonic.

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