It's hard to imagine that Lynyrd Skynyrd, in its original incarnation, was around for such a brief period. In just four years -- from the release of Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd in 1973 to the 1977 plane crash that killed lead singer Ronnie VanZant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backup singer Cassie Gaines -- the band recorded at least a half-dozen classic rock standards and reinvented American rock & roll after the British Invasion and psychedelic freakouts of the '60s. Say what you want about the overexposure of "Free Bird" and "Sweet Home Alabama" or the band's difficult, sometimes contrarian and always complicated redneck legacy: Skynyrd was one of the best American bands ever -- tough as nails, determined, urgent and one hell of a bunch of musicians. And VanZant's ground-level, working-class philosophy, like it or not, was something of a reactionary revolution in its day.
Unfortunately, much of the energy has been drained from the band's legacy by classic rock radio and the band's sixteen-year-long reunion tour, with Johnny VanZant reducing his brother's conflicted apolitical politics to knee-jerk right-wing commentary (viz. their latest single, "Red, White and Blue," as obnoxious and jingoistic as any pro-war song on the contemporary country charts).
It's hard to imagine the man who wrote "Workin' for MCA" and "Don't Ask Me No Questions" doing a nostalgia reunion tour. Then again, the plane crash might have saved us all from having to watch him do it. The reconstituted Skynyrd performs at 7:30 p.m. at the Family Arena (2002 South River Road in St. Charles, 314-534-1111). Tickets are $17.50-$30. -- Matthew Everett
Everyone seems to want to spend weekend nights during the holidays contemplating the logistics of conception without sex, but some whodunits defy solution. For those who require a body of some sort to aid them in their sleuthing, there is dinner theater. A Christmas Killing: The Murder of Ebenezer Scrooge is the perfect outing for hungry dicks (that's "private eye" to you) who yearn to puzzle over something weighty while masticating chicken cordon bleu. The production runs through December 31 at St. Louis' oldest "hysterical" landmark, the Bissell Mansion (4426 Randall Place), at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. (Tickets are $34.95-$37.95). For reservations or more information, call 314-533-9830 or visit www.bissellmansiontheatre.com. -- John Goddard
Just Musing Around
This newspaper publishes only factual information. Admittedly -- albeit infrequently -- we err, despite our attention to detail. But not this time: This preview of author Amy Tan's 8 p.m. speaking engagement at Powell Symphony Hall (718 North Grand Avenue; call 314-533-7888 for ticket information) is completely factual. Unfortunately, not every journalist is as committed to writing the truth, so in Tan's recent non-fiction debut, The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings, she humorously confronts a few misconceptions. For example, while Tan was never a factory worker, she has been a carhop and a pizza slinger. This confession and her other thoughtful, touching essays provide insight about The Joy Luck Club's author and her feelings about fate. (And yes, you are fated to attend.) -- Alison Sieloff
There is a certain local ex-Beatnik who prefers to be known as "Sir Thomas Rangdale" when he paints or writes poetry. The reason for not using his real name will become all too clear when he reads from his crude new collection, Nasty Sonnets, at 7 p.m. at Cummel's Café (1627 Washington Avenue). Surely, the RFT has been accused of printing titillating material a number of times (check out the beginning of this week's Night & Day section). But we'd have to sink to a new level of sickness to actually share the lines from some of Rangdale's bawdiest titles, which include "Limp Thing," "I Sing of Shit" and "New Rod" (free, www.nastysonnets.com). -- Byron Kerman