What to watch for

Bobby McFerrin. Sure, he gave us the insipid "Don't Worry, Be Happy," but before his brush with stardom, McFerrin was a top-notch jazz vocalist with some fine albums under his belt. He got a bit overly arty in the '90s, but even at his most pretentious, the singer could hold an audience spellbound with just himself and a microphone. I'd love to see him with a band, but for this show he'll be joined by a vocal ensemble called Voicestra. For more, see Music Week on p. 62. Feb. 7, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater.

Ira Sullivan. The veteran jazz horn player did a Gorilla Theater matinee a couple of years ago and proved to be a gregarious host who offered insights into jazz for the audience, as well as playing like a champ. He'll be joined by pianist Michael Royal, bassist Mark Neuenschwander and drummer Marty Morrell for another go-round in the intimate performance space. Feb. 11 (3 p.m.), Gorilla Theatre, Tampa.

Against Me!/Riverboat Gamblers/Fake Problems. Few bands in Florida — hell, the nation — can balance the powerful surge of punk rock with rootsy Americana like Gainesville's Against Me! Since releasing 2005's Searching for a Former Clarity, the band has been touring seemingly forever, bringing its famously riotous live show to every state in the nation and even taking time out to sign with a major. Opening up for the band's St. Pete date are the Riverboat Gamblers — a highly touted punk 'n' roll combo — and Naples up-and-comers Fake Problems. Feb. 21, State Theatre, St. Petersburg. —Cooper Levey-Baker

Justin Timberlake w/Pink. It took me quite some time to come around on Timberlake, and I certainly wouldn't call myself a fan, but I must admit that his recent singles (especially the Prince-ish "I'm Bringing Sexy Back") are pretty damn funky, deftly balancing hip-hop attitude with pop infectiousness. Bring earplugs — not for the stage volume, but for what I suspect will be a considerable amount of screaming from adolescent girls in the crowd. Pink, a marginal singer at best, brings her tough-chick act. Feb. 22, St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa.

Rosanne Cash/Kris Kristofferson. Johnny's daughter has carved out her own successful, long-standing niche. She has scored a gaggle of country hits but has never fallen in line with Music Row orthodoxy. Her brooding '80s album Interiors, which chronicled the breakup of her stormy marriage to Rodney Crowell, is a durable critical fave. The gravel-voiced Kristofferson is better-known now as an actor, but in the early '70s, he was highly lauded as a songwriter and musical artist in his own right. Feb. 23, Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, Sarasota.

Lindsey Buckingham. When Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac in the mid-'70s, the band soon blasted into the stratosphere. I always thought of Buckingham as the artistic conscience of the group. He'd been out of circulation until last year when he released Under the Skin, his first solo album since 1992's Out of the Cradle. March 7, Tampa Theatre.

Keb' Mo'. No dirt-poor Mississippi roots for Keb' Mo' — he grew up in South Central Los Angeles as Kevin Moore — but he is an eminently entertaining singer-songwriter who uses the blues as a sort of launching pad. He generally performs solo acoustic, but will also bring along a backing band for this show. March 8, Tampa Theatre, Tampa.

The Who. Geriatric rockers? Sure. But hear this: The three times that I've seen The Who in the last decade or so, they've been great. In fact, their most recent appearance, at the Forum, was the best of the bunch. The band released a new album last year, and it didn't do much — which, for the concertgoer, is probably a good thing, because that means Townshend, Daltry et al will likely focus on the classic numbers. March 13, Ford Amphitheatre, Tampa.

Gilberto Gil. This is exciting. Gilberto is a true legend in his native Brazil and a revered artist internationally. He's one of the architects of Brazil's late '60s/early '70s "tropicalismo" movement, along with similarly heralded artists like Milton Nascimento and Caetano Veloso. Gil's sophisticated sound stirs jazz and Western pop into samba, bossa nova and other styles indigenous to his homeland. His rich singing voice runneth over with soul. March 31, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa.

Tom Jones. He's 66 years old, but I'm betting that Tom Jones can still stir the hearts of many a middle-aged woman with his lusty stage show. Expect him to get showered with granny panties. His powerful voice is a marvel, and he delivers something akin to strident blue-eyed soul. I'll never tire of hearing "It's Not Unusual." April, 4-5, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater.

TV on the Radio. Probably the consensus band of the indie rock community despite the fact that the group released last year's Return to Cookie Mountain on a major label. TV on the Radio is in Orlando in April, and the show should be worth the trip. The unit combines disparate ingredients like hip-hop drum patterns, layers of guitar feedback and the remarkably expressive croon of lead singer Tunde Adebimpe. April 9, Club Firestone, Orlando, 407-872-0066. —CLB

Christina Aguilera. Should we even deign to talk about actual singing talent in the context of today's pop landscape? Inasmuch as it's even relevant, Aguilera is easily the best singer among the current crop of young pop divas. She's also quite a performer as well. May 4, St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa.

Gwen Stefani. You could call her the Madonna of her generation: good looks, limited vocal talent, terrific dancer and showperson. But isn't Stefani so much more likable than Madonna? Gwen always looks as if she is having a ball on stage, whereas you could all but hear the ka-ching in Madonna's head. Gwen seems to genuinely like her audience, which I never sensed from Madonna. This should be one of those dance-pop spectacles where you can't take your eyes off the star. May 8, Ford Amphitheatre, Tampa.

Tampa Bay Blues Fest. The venerable event continues into its second decade with an eclectic lineup that continues to include acts outside of the pure blues realm. This year features Jerry Lee Lewis, the combustible artist who was in on the early development of rock 'n' roll. Former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts will bring his country-tinged rock (and surely some blues) to the proceedings as will boogie rock maven George Thorogood. Percy Sledge, the '60s soul hit-maker, scored a No. 1 hit with "When a Man Loves a Woman." Here's the rest of the bill for you blues fiends: Koko Taylor, Debbie Davies, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Watermelon Slim, Eric Lindell, Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials, Nora Jean Bruso, Guitar Shorty, E.G. Kight, Michael Burks and the Walker Smith Group. May 4-6, Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg.

Tropical Heatwave. One of the best parties of the year, every year, continues into its third decade with an eclectic array of acts performing at and around the Cuban Club in Ybor City. Confirmed acts include: the gospel-ish R&B group The Holmes Brothers (excellent choice); singer-songwriters Paul Thorn and James McMurtry; zydeco act Dwayne Dopsie and others. May 12, Cuban Club, etc., Ybor City.

Steely Dan. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker brought their road show to the Ford Amphitheatre last summer, and it was the best large-venue concert I saw all year — perhaps the best concert overall. The Dan left their 2000s material on the shelf and played song after song from their brilliant '70s catalogue (the hits and a few surprises). This spring, the jazzy rock combo is playing the intimate confines of Ruth Eckerd, with its state-of-the art acoustics. May 14, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater.

Mix it up: Spring arts

What to watch for


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Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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