The shouts for "Free Bird" and other Lynyrd Skynyrd songs could be heard as soon as Rossington took the stage at the Country Club. The band is led by Gary Rossington, who survived the plane crash that took the lives of three of his Skynyrd mates nearly a decade ago, and most of the 200 or so fans on hand Saturday didn't want him to forget his musical past.

To Rossington's credit, he doesn't seem interested in simply fueling his fans' nostalgia. Rather than trying to re-create the blistering, multi-guitar Skynyrd tradition, he is aiming for his own musical statement. The trouble is, he hasn't come up with anything interesting.

In Skynyrd there was a sense of dynamics and electricity as its three guitarists, including Rossington, played off one another and singer Ronnie Van Zant. Not so with this septet that Rossington fronts with his wife, singer Dale Krantz-Rossington. He plays, she sings and that's all--no sparks, no chemistry, no sense of pushing each other to give their best.

While Rossington wisely favors compact rockers over extended boogie, his material had no personality or punch--none of ZZ Top's character or .38 Special's pop sense, to cite two bands working in roughly the same musical territory. And even when the band finally turned to the Skynyrd songbook for "Sweet Home Alabama" (co-written by Rossington), the version was so tired that any bar band worth its guitar strings could have outdone it. Mercifully, the band skipped "Free Bird."

Rossington will also play the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano tonight and Fender's in Long Beach on Thursday.

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