Spring Arts 2008

click to enlarge Lucero - Wes Frazer
Wes Frazer

The Headlights w/The Ditchflowers. The Bay area's greatest ever jangle-rock band allegedly flips the switch for the last time with this show. That according to guitarist Steve Connelly. The Headlights nuzzled up against a national breakthrough in the '90s, but never quite got there, even after backing ex-Byrd Roger McGuinn on a comeback tour. In the last half-decade, the fellas have gotten together occasionally, just for fun or a good cause. They'll be joined by The Ditchflowers — singer/songwriters Ed Woltil and Brian Merrill and company — whose debut album last year was an absolute marvel of thinking-person's adult rock. Feb. 9. Largo Cultural Center, Largo, 727-587-6751. —ES

Van Halen. Eddie and Alex reconciled with dipshit Dave, looking for a payday. Michael Anthony got the heave-ho. Am I cynical? Sure, but there's no denying that the Van Halen reunion tour is one of the big events of the concert season. And, who knows, it just might be good. They won't be pimping a new album, so it should be hit after hit, finger-tap solo after finger-tap solo — but please, Dave, don't attempt any windmill kicks. Ky-Mani Marley opens. Feb. 18, St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, 813.301.6500. —ES

Lucero. For the better part of the past decade this Memphis-based rock outfit with an alt-country bent has captivated listeners with gritty tales of life on the road and odes to transient love. An engaging live act, Lucero is led by charismatic singer/songwriter Ben Nichols, a man known for imbibing with fans before, during and after performances. Feb. 23, State Theatre, St. Petersburg, 727-895-3045. —WT

Rosanne Cash. The scion of a country music royal, Ms. Cash carved out her own critically lauded and commercially successful career — one that has been going strong since 1979. Over the years, she's maneuvered between country, folk and pop — always maintaining her integrity as a singer/songwriter. Ms. Cash's latest album, 2006's Black Cadillac, is a poignant collection of songs written in the wake of the deaths of stepmother June Carter and father Johnny Cash. March 2, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, 813-229-7827. —WT

k.d lang. The Canadian treasure unleashes a new album next week: Watershed, her first consisting of all-new songs in eight years. It's a delight, if a subtle one. (Read the review in Spins, p. XX.) Lang's crystalline contralto is one of the truly great voices in pop music, and she brings plenty of humor and down-to-earth charm to the stage. March 3, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 727.791.7400.

Alejandro Escovedo. We almost lost this alt-country luminary a few years back to hepatitis C, but the Austin-based singer/songwriter beat the disease in 2005 (thanks to financial help from a tribute album) and has returned to touring and recording — with a new album planned for release in the spring. Escovedo's concerts alternate from soulful ballads to blissed-out rockers, his acclaimed originals augmented by covers like a rousing rendition of The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog." March 7, Palladium Theatre, St. Petersburg, 727-822-3590. —WT

Ani DiFranco. One of the most fiercely independent and important singer/songwriters of the past two decades, DiFranco has evolved from strident, chick-with-a-guitar folkie to jazz-band-leading chanteuse during a career recently documented by the excellent two-disc retrospective, Canon. Collection includes such faves as the gleeful fuck-you "Untouchable Face," the ska-informed romp "Little Plastic Castle" and the recent, jazzy torch song "Hypnotized." Here's to hoping all three get performed in concert. But who knows? DiFranco's a delightfully unpredictable performer. March 11, Tampa Theatre, Tampa, 813-274-8286. —WT

They Might Be Giants. If They Might Be Giants had released only 1990's quirky, smile-including masterstroke album, Flood, they'd still rank as one of the great "alternative rock" bands of the era. Luckily, the duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell has quietly pressed on, alternating between children and adult releases. Their latest, 2007's The Else, falls into the latter category and is a winning combination of Flansburgh/Linnell peculiarities (titles include "Bee of the Bird of the Month") and the Dust Brothers' futuristically funky production. Oppenheimer opens. March 11, Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg, 727-895-3045. —WT

Caribou. Splitting the difference between electronic space flight and organic, Brian Wilson-esque psychedelia, Caribou's 2007 album Andorra proved one of the year's most satisfying and innovative releases. Sonic architect Dan Snaith presents his work in concert with a four-piece band and a backdrop of trippy visuals, with the singer/multi-instrumentalist switching between keyboards and drums. April 6, Crowbar, Ybor City, 813-241-8600. —WT

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. The Boss returns with old pals the E Streeters in support of Magic, his chart-topping album from last year that produced the hit single "Radio Nowhere" plus memorable songs like "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" and "Living in the Future." Recent Springsteen tour dates have not broken the three-hour mark, but he continues to pepper his changeable set lists with old, rather obscure gems like "Thundercrack," "She's the One" and "No Surrender." April 21, St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, 813-301-2500. —WT

Wade Tatangelo and Eric Snider

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