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Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Stars of all genres visit Tampa for big music weekend

Recording artists don't have anything against Tampa. There's a logical reason why some tours miss the area and, well, all of the Sunshine State. Routing sometimes prevents performers from hitting Florida.

“There are times we make that right turn at Atlanta and go toward New Orleans,” Everclear's Art Alexakis explained. “I love Florida, but that's just the way it goes sometimes.”

This week a plethora of sonic heavyweights and contenders will not be taking that right turn. From pop to hip-hop to blues to bluegrass to “West End Girls” to a “Coal Miner's Daughter,” there is something for everyone in Bay area venues. It's just a matter of choosing the show or shows you would like to catch.


The MidFlorida Amphitheatre will be hosting some heavy hitters all weekend. Fans will get considerable bang for their buck by catching a double bill shared by legendary blues rockers ZZ Top and eclectic bad boy Kid Rock set for Sunday. An Andrew Jackson ($20) is all you need to enter.

It's hard to believe, but it's been more than 40 years since the band formed in Houston. Expect a set filled with hits from the bearded wonders.

Kid Rock has morphed from a cocky character who crafts celebratory white-trash rap-rock to Bob Seger-esque pop-rock, which is what he was weaned on while coming of age in Michigan.

And speaking of co-headliners, there is Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson, who are part of one of the summer's most popular tours. Maroon 5 crafts some of the catchiest pop-rock on the circuit. It helps having the suave and stylish Adam Levine as frontman. Clarkson continues to deliver hook-laden pop. “Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)” is her latest anthemic single, a healthy decade after “Since U Been Gone” hit the top of the charts.

Arrive early Friday to catch Maroon 5 keyboardist P.J. Morton, who will open the show. Morton, an emerging songsmith, will showcase tracks from his under-heralded disc “New Orleans,” one of the most eclectic albums of the year.

“It's like a gumbo,” Morton said. “But that reflects what I'm about. I grew up in the hip-hop generation. My father (Paul Morton) is (a) gospel (musician). I embraced everything from the Beatles to James Taylor when I was growing up. If you're from New Orleans, you're going to be eclectic. I love it that way.”

Morton's heroes, Stevie Wonder and Busta Rhymes, appear on the album, and so does his pal, the aforementioned Levine. Don't bet on Wonder and Rhymes pulling a cameo, but perhaps Levine will take the stage with Morton.

Depeche Mode will perform Saturday at the MidFlorida Amphitheatre, and the veteran British act hasn't lost a step. They played an abbreviated but effective set in Austin at South By Southwest in March, and the Mode was riveting.

Speaking of South By Southwest, Rick Springfield impressed while performing with Dave Grohl's supergroup, the Sound City Players, during the conference last spring. Springfield didn't get enough credit for delivering solid pop-rock during the '80s. “Jessie's Girl” and “I've Done Everything For You” were some of the songs he delivered in Austin. Expect the same when he plays Friday at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

“It doesn't surprise me that they stood the test of time,” Springfield said. “Those songs stand up. I always thought they were well-constructed songs. I put everything that I have into my songs.”

Steely Dan returns Saturday to Ruth Eckerd Hall. The quirky duo are on the “Mood Swings: 8 Miles to Pancake Day” tour. The tandem of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker recently were part of an off-the-wall teleconference. Steely Dan has put out only a pair of albums since its creative '80s heyday. But they tour often, which wasn't the case a generation ago.

“That's the way it was but that part has worked out,” Fagen said. “The venues and the menus and the hotels have gotten better. Now it's much more fun to play. I'm glad we turned into a big-time touring band later in life.”

Much like Steely Dan, the Pet Shop Boys rarely toured during their salad days back in the Reagan era. But the Pet Shop Boys, who will play Friday at the Mahaffey, have been hitting the road of late. Vocalist Neil Tennant and keyboardist Chris Lowe don't interact much and move around as much as a pair of trees. But the group has crafted some truly terrific songs that are worth experiencing live. “Rent,” “Suburbia” and “It's a Sin” aren't just catchy, they're humorous and clever. Also count on a number of outrageous costumes sported by the aging Boys, which almost makes up for the duo's lack of physical movement.

Loretta Lynn is one tough cookie, but what else would you expect from a singer who belts out “Fist City”? She broke her ribs Aug. 31 and nixed some concerts, but the show will go on in St. Petersburg when she performs Saturday at the Mahaffey. Lynn still possesses a great voice as she eyes octogenarian status. Her shows are as laid back as a campfire sing-a-long. The country legend is a charming original.

J. Cole, the first artist to sign with Jay Z's Roc Nation label, will appear Friday at the Straz Center. Cole is a dynamic rapper touring behind his intense album “Born Sinner.” The theatrical Cole brings the bravado and the wit.

Those enthralled with bluegrass should check out the Del McCoury Band on Saturday at Skipper's, playing the first day of a two-day birthday party for WMNF. McCoury has been all about bluegrass since he discovered Earl Scruggs more than a half-century ago. McCoury picked up a banjo and has made some exceptional bluegrass for 50 solid years.

A strong blues guitarist has emerged from the other side of the Atlantic, and she headlines day two of the birthday party on Sunday. Yugoslavia's Ana Popovic is a young hotshot guitarist and a powerful singer, who easily engages the audience.

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