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SoundBytes: Rob Thomas, Neon Trees, Steve Earle, Ciara and more

-- Another Monday, another slew of new concerts from Ruth Eckerd Hall and the Capitol Theatre: Steve Earle (above) and the Dukes on May 24 at the Cap (tickets are $39.50-$59.50; click here), Shelby Lynne on June 2 at the Cap ($25-$42.50; click here), Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra on June 27 at the Cap ($39.50-$54.50; click here), Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas on July 24 at Ruth Eckerd ($65-$150; click here), Whitesnake on Aug. 6 at Ruth Eckerd ($38.75-$125; click here). All of these shows will go on sale as soon as Saturday.

-- More than a year after they played the Ritz Ybor, electro-pop rockers Neon Trees are coming to the State Theatre in St. Pete on July 11, with Coin and Fictionist. Tickets are $23, and they go on sale Friday. Click here.

-- Singer, actress and model Ciara is coming to the Ritz Ybor on May 16. Tickets are $27.50. Click here.

-- Continuing a strong run of hip-hop shows at the Orpheum, rap legend KRS-One will perform there on May 1. Tickets are $15-$20. Click here.

-- Thrash metal outfit Overkill is coming to the Ritz Ybor with Symphony X on Oct. 13. Tickets are $25-$100. Click here. …

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Taylor Swift at Raymond James Stadium: the Tampa Sports Authority's $2.75 million gamble

How much is a Taylor Swift concert worth? If you're the Tampa Sports Authority, a cool $2.75 million.

That's the total amount invested in booking Swift for an Oct. 31 concert at Raymond James Stadium, the latest ploy in the TSA's plan to earn revenue as a concert promoter.

At the rate tickets are currently selling, the TSA could break even on that investment as early as June 1, netting the agency a sizeable profit. But in the concert industry, nothing is guaranteed.

"I don't want anyone to get a false sense of security," TSA chief Eric Hart said in an interview. "I've done this for 28 years now. I've lost a couple. It is possible. And when you lose, it's painful."

For more on how Swift's concert could play out for the Tampa Sports Authority and taxpayers, click here.

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Boy George, Culture Club tour coming to renovated Madeira Beach park

Last week, word broke that Boy George and Culture Club were reuniting for their first tour in some 15 years, and it included three stops in Florida, starting with Aug. 14 at Bayfront Park in Miami and ending Aug. 16 at Hard Rock Live in Orlando. In between was an Aug. 15 concert at Madeira Beach Waterfront Park in Tampa.

That last date raised a couple of flags. Maderia Beach/Tampa confusion aside, the name "Madeira Beach Waterfront Park" seemed off, yielding very few hits on Google. And the beachfront city wasn't known for hosting large outdoor concerts by internationally known pop acts. Was something amiss? Was Boy George confused? Did Culture Club really want to hurt us?

A few days later, we have more details. The Karma Chameleon popsters are, in fact, performing in Madeira Beach — not Tampa — on Aug. 15. They’ll be headlining what promoter Harry Tiyler calls a “unity festival to promote racial, religious and sexual-orientation tolerance.” More artists will be added soon. …

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Ariana Grande coming to Amalie Arena in Tampa

Ariana Grande's fans in Tampa have one less Problem in their lives this morning, because their ponytailed, kitty-eared princess is coming to town.

One of 2014's breakout pop divas, Grande has announced plans for a second run of dates for her blockbuster Honeymoon Tour, and they'll kick off with a July 16 date at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Latin star Prince Royce will open the show. Tickets are $26,.25-$66.25 and they go on sale Saturday. Click here for details.

Grande hasn't performed in Tampa Bay since the 2013 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball, and given the success she had last year with collaborative singles like Problem, Bang Bang, Break Free and Love Me Harder, a return engagement seems overdue for the Florida native. Fresh off a win at Sunday's iHeartMedia Awards (Best Collaboration for Bang Bang with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj), she's banking on that popularity carrying over into 2015, regardless of what people say about her allegedly diva-like ways.

And hey, who knows? Maybe she'll bring along Justin Bieber for a surprise cameo, like she did in Miami.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

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Review: Sarah McLachlan's eternally ethereal voice warms Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater

Sarah McLachlan performed at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on March 29, 2015.

Jay Cridlin

Sarah McLachlan performed at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on March 29, 2015.

Sarah McLachlan's Sunday was probably a lot like yours: Breakfast at Clearwater's Tin Can Cafe ("I think I'm still full. Huge plates."), then a quick walk to Marshalls to buy a new suitcase.

Then, Sunday night, she took the stage at Ruth Eckerd Hall and started to sing. And that’s when she left the plane of mere mortals.

McLachlan’s heavenly, perfectly preserved voice, that ethereal mezzo-soprano, drifting along like a wisp of silk in the breeze, hasn’t aged a second since the first Lilith Fair, and every facet of her dazzling instrument was on full display at her first local show in a decade.

Yet while she may possess the voice of a diva, McLachlan herself performed like anything but, carrying the night not only with her pipes but with her winning, self-deprecating charm. Maybe it’s the Halifax in her, but for more than two and a half hours, she was a kind and generous host, welcoming fans onstage to chat, snap selfies and even sing a few bars of Building A Mystery. It was a Lilith-like atmosphere, even if the stage was much smaller. Full Story

Review: Eric Church, rebellious as ever, rocks through the night at Amalie Arena in Tampa

Eric Church performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on March 28, 2015.

Jay Cridlin

Eric Church performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on March 28, 2015.

It took six songs for an honest-to-goodness smile to form beneath Eric Church’s silvery aviators on Saturday at Amalie Arena. No surprise it came while he was singing about Merle Haggard.

Church introduced Pledge Allegiance to the Hag with a tip of the cap to Tampa’s Dallas Bull, a club he played more than once back in the day. “Some of the best times of my life,” he said, adding, “we played this song the first time we played the Bull in 2006 or 2007.”

And maybe it was the Jack talking, or maybe it was just the memory of singing about Merle in a bar, but by the time he got to the line, “You can take me back to where I’m from,” man, was Eric Church grinning.

This was the Chief’s first headlining concert here since ascending to country’s A-list, and thus his first chance to show Tampa his proudly rebellious vision of what country music should be – and may yet become, if crowds of 13,709 keep coming out to see him night after night. Those Dallas Bull days? Those are long gone. This was an arena rock show, pure and simple, not only in its 360-degree staging and denim-and-sunglasses styling, but in philosophy, too. Full Story

Review: Clean Bandit mix musicianship, disco energy at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg

Clean Bandit, with singer Elisabeth Troy, left, and cellist Grace Chatto played the State Theatre in St. Petersburg on March 26, 2015.

Brian Mahar

Clean Bandit, with singer Elisabeth Troy, left, and cellist Grace Chatto played the State Theatre in St. Petersburg on March 26, 2015.

Can a band coming off a Grammy win for a gigantic pop hit truly be facing an uphill climb?

Well, look at Clean Bandit. Six weeks after Rather Be won a Grammy for Best Dance Recording, here they are schlepping their cellos and synthesizers around the United States, trying to sell their sleek, seductive spin on deep house and U.K. garage to the American masses -- all without the help of Rather Be’s ascendant vocalist Jess Glynne.

On top of all that: When Clean Bandit hit the State Theatre in St. Petersburg on Thursday, they were also down violinist/pianist Neil Milan Amin-Smith, who was off DJ’ing a pre-Ultra Music Festival event in Miami; and their backup vocalists, who were stuck in the United Kingdom.

So yeah: Clean Bandit has their work cut out for them.

Thing is, there are times when the British boppers are doing their thing that it all seems to work perfectly, and you can see how their unique blend of classical training and retro-pop glitter really could have a transformative effect on dance music in America.Full Story

Safety Harbor SongFest preview: Shawn Mullins, Steep Canyon Rangers, Joseph Arthur and more

The second annual Safety Harbor SongFest brings more than 20 national touring artists in the Americana, country, folk, blues, pop and bluegrass genres — including multiple Grammy Award winners — to Safety Harbor's Waterfront Park on Tampa Bay this weekend.

It all begins Friday with a 6 to 8 p.m. happening at Syd Entel Galleries as artist, poet, and Grammy-nominated musician Joseph Arthur demonstrates his many talents, simultaneously.

Headlining this year's event is Grammy nominee Shawn Mullins, who takes the stage Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, the Grammy Award-winning Steep Canyon Rangers (above) start pickin' at 5:30 p.m. Other top draws include Grammy Award-winning artist Jim Lauderdale as well as Joe Craven, Willie Sugarcapps, Meiko, David Jacobs-Strain, Seth Walker, Kawehi, Ryan Montbleau, the Vespers and Caroline Kole, a local gal who tours with Reba McEntire.

Click here for Terri Bryce Reeves' full preview of the Safety Harbor SongFest.

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This week in Tampa: Eric Church, Nickelback, Sarah McLachlan and more

Tons of great rock, country, hip hop and singer-songwriter fare is on its way to Tampa Bay this weekend: Nickelback (above), Eric Church, Sarah McLachlan, Atmosphere, Kristian Bush, Steep Canyon Rangers, Joseph Arthur, Steven Curtis Chapman, El Gran Combo, Moon Hooch, Swans, Dar Williams, Enter Shikari, Taking Back Sunday, Frankie Ballard, G. Love and Special Sauce, the Ataris, The Devil Wears Prada and more. Here to walk you through it all is Ray Roa...Full Story

Review: Bleachers transcend cookie-cutter pop with energy, positivity at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg

Jack Antonoff and Bleachers performed at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg on March 25, 2015.

Brian Mahar

Jack Antonoff and Bleachers performed at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg on March 25, 2015.

Bleachers released their first album, Strange Desire, eight months ago, and are selling out small venues across the country. But they didn’t get to the spotlight by luck, as frontman Jack Antonoff has earned his musical clout and paid his dues as a member of Steel Train and Fun.

I must admit that I went into Bleachers’ sold-out concert Wednesday at the State Theatre a hater. Personally, the studio cuts appeared trite, cheesy catchy and cookie-cutter, aside from Antonoff’s distinct vocals.

You’d guess that it’d be hard to perform a full set with only 40 minutes of material, but they managed just over an hour -- and not a Die Antwoord “hour,” but a rather crowd-rousing, high energy set that included three covers and plenty of lathering the crowd with compliments.

Antonoff said he fell in love with St. Petersburg when he was 15, and told anecdotes of meeting strangers and forgetting his broken heart while romping about the ’Burg, ending with, “Anything can happen here; that’s what I think.” …

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Ticket Window: Dierks Bentley, Slightly Stoopid, Everclear, Steel Panther and more

Topping this week’s edition of Ticket Window is a curious new concert: Everclear’s annual Summerland Tour, which this year features Fuel, the Toadies and American Hi-Fi, on June 14 at Screwie Louie’s Porpoise Pub in Seminole. This is the same tour that played the Mahaffey Theater in 2013, and was slated for Vinoy Park last summer before heavy rains forced a last-minute cancelation. Screwie Louie’s is a surprising venue for Summerland, but they’ve hosted big-name acts before (Quiet Riot, Marshall Tucker Band). So maybe it’ll turn out great. Tickets start at just $5, so you might want to hop on it. Click here for details.

Also, because we skipped last week, this week’s edition of Ticket Window is playing a bit of catch-up. Here are the concerts and events with tickets going on sale both last week and this week: Steel Panther (May 8, Jannus Live), Laurie Berkner (May 17, Capitol Theatre), Melt Banana (May 30, Orpheum), GBH (June 4, Local 662), David Crosby (June 12, Capitol Theatre), Summerland Tour (June 14, Screwie Louie’s Porpoise Pub), Mamma Mia! (June 23-28, Straz Center), Dierks Bentley (July 2, MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre), The Babys (July 24, Largo Cultural Center), Slightly Stoopid and Dirty Heads (July 26, Vinoy Park), Psychostick (Aug. 2, State Theatre), Cirque du Soleil: Varekai (Aug. 5-9, Amalie Arena) and Brian Regan (December 12, Ruth Eckerd Hall).

Click here and here for the past two weeks of Ticket Window.Full Story

USF Bullstock lineup: Young the Giant, American Authors, Andy Grammer to headline free concert

Young the Giant had to squash their last trip to Tampa Bay when February's Coastline Festival in St. Petersburg was canceled.

But they're coming back for Bullstock.

The University of South Florida's annual spring Bullstock concert released its lineup on Wednesday, and the California rockers behind It's About Time, My Body and Cough Syrup are its headliners. Joining them are Best Day Of My Life hitmakers American Authors and singer-songwriter Andy Grammer.The event will also feature local bands, a rock wall, bumper cars, inflatables, food trucks and more.

Bullstock 2015 is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 10 in the parking lot of the USF Sun Dome. And while it's organized by, and ostensibly for, USF students, Bullstock, like USF's homecoming concert, is free and open to the public.

For details on Bullstock 2015, click here.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*


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SoundBytes: UB40, Steel Panther, Bill Nye, Juicy J and more

-- Chart-topping British reggae-pop group UB40 is coming to the Mahaffey Theater on Oct. 23. (This version of UB40, we should note, features three key founding members -- singer Ali Campbell, trumpeter Astro and keyboardist Mickey Virtue -- although their use of the name "UB40" has been contested by other founding members of the band. It's kind of a Wailers/Original Wailers situation.) Tickets are $42.50 and up; click here for details.

-- Rapper Juicy J is coming to the Ritz Ybor in Tampa on June 28. Ticket prices haven't been announced, but are expected to go on sale Friday. Click here.

-- The one and only Bill Nye -- the Science Guy himself! -- will speak at the University of South Florida on April 7. The event is free and open to the public, but students and USF folks will be given preference, and this one will probably fill up quickly. Click here for details.

-- What Spinal Tap was to over-the-top arena rock of the '70s and '80s, Steel Panther is to hair metal. Finally, the comedic rockers are bringing their live show to Tampa Bay, with a concert at Jannus Live on May 8. Tickets are $25-$28, and they go on sale Friday. Click here. …

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Jay Leno talks about life after 'Tonight Show,' focusing on stand-up and more

It was, Jay Leno insists, a weekend of gigs like any other.

When he left the Tonight Show on Feb. 6, 2014, and hopped on a plane for a string of shows in Florida — including a handful in Clearwater and Sarasota — "it felt just like any other weekend," he said in a phone interview. "I finished the Tonight Show on Thursday, and Friday, I was in Florida.

"The difference is, I didn't have to run back to my room and write 14 minutes' worth of jokes every single day. Because no matter what happens, you still have to write jokes."

More than a year after ceding the Tonight Show to Jimmy Fallon, that remains the case for Leno, even if those jokes are no longer earmarked for his nightly, newsy monolgues. Always one of comedy's most tireless road dogs, his "retirement" consists of some 220 gigs a year, including one this Sunday at the Straz Center in Tampa (tickets are $49 and up; click here). And he sounds like doesn't mind the change of pace.

"Show business is like champagne: You drink it every day, you become an alcoholic," he says.

For more of our interview with Jay Leno, click here.Full Story

Sarah McLachlan talks motherhood, Lilith Fair, the dangers of social media and more

Even though Sarah McLachlan is one of pop music's preeminent feminist role models, she cannot shake the omnipresent fear of raising two young daughters in the modern world.

"You thought bullying was bad when we were kids?" the singer and Lilith Fair co-founder said in a phone interview. "The capacity to do so much more damage — it's massive. I look at Facebook and things like that as weapons in the hands of kids. They just don't have the psychological understanding to realize the possible damage they inflict. And there's such a degree of anonymity with it, too. You're not saying it to someone else, you're posting it. There's a level of separation where you don't really have to be responsible for it. That's the thing I am hammering into my kids ad nauseum — you have to take responsibility for your actions, good or bad. It works both ways. You f--- up, you apologize and try to fix it."

McLachlan always keeps her loved ones close on tour. When she arrives at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater for a concert on Sunday (tickets are $53.75 and up; click here for details), her daughters will be back at school in Vancouver, but she usually hangs out with them on her tour bus as soon as each show ends.

"Regardless of the job and the workload, I'm just mom," McLachlan says. "That doesn't stop just because I get offstage at 11. I'm in the bus five minutes later, getting into my jammies and reading stories. It's like, 'Hurry up, mom!' They don't care about the show. They just want their stories read to them. And I kind of love that, because it's really grounding."

For more of our interview with Sarah McLachlan, click here.Full Story