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Lynyrd Skynard band returns after 10 years

By
MICHAEL MOLINSKI

CONCORD, Calif. -- The Lynyrd Skynyrd rock band, silenced for a decade by a tragic plane crash, is back and is 'awesome,' in the view of one fan.

The '70srock band whose 'Free Bird' and 'Sweet Home Alabama' once topped the music charts, launched a 32-city, 40 day tour with another Van Zandt at the helm.

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'It was the kind of concert where the band is every bit as awesome as they were 10 years ago,' Brian Rooney, 22, San Francisco, said Wednesday night after the new band's inaugural appearance.

It was the first time the surviving members have played together under the name Lynyrd Skynyrd since lead singer Ronnie Van Zandt, lead guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister, backup singer Cassie Gaines, died in a plane crash Oct. 20, 1977, in Mississippi.

Singing lead for the new Skynyrd was Johnny Van Zandt, Ronnie's younger brother who was not one of the original band members.

Still with the band are pianist Bill Powell, lead guitarists Eddie King and Gary Rossington, bass guitarist Leon Wilkeson and drummer Artemus Pyle. A new member is guitarist Randall Hall.

The band's one and only encore before the more than 7,000 fans at Concord Pavilion was 'Free Bird,' and they did it as an instrumental.

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'I'm not going to sing this song,' Van Zandt said as he stood on stage before the encore, 'because there is only one man who can sing this song.' He walked off the stage and let the guitarists take over.

The band performed all of its old hits, including 'That Smell,' 'Give Me Back My Bullets,' 'Call Me The Breeze' and 'Give Me Three Steps.'

Fans stayed on their feet during the performance.

'We used to listen to Skynyrd in high school,' said John Vandevooren, 28, Fremont. 'Tonight brought back a lot of memories. That was the whole idea of coming here.'

The band also picked up some new fans.

'My parents still play their records all the time, and I think they're the greatest,' said Michelle Larson, 14, Livermore.

The group was scheduled to perform in Reno Thursday night and Sacramento Friday before returning to the San Francisco Bay Area to play at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View Saturday.

Lynyrd Skynyrd also recently released a new album, 'Legend,' compiled mostly from previously unreleased songs from before the plane crash.

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