Review: Colbie Caillat delivers an intimate acoustic show in Tampa
A prior engagement prevented me from catching Colbie Caillat in concert Saturday night at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Bummer, because I do think she's an underrated talent as a pop singer and songwriter.
So I did the next best thing: I visited the brand-new performance studio at the Clear Channel radio headquarters in Tampa on Saturday afternoon, where Caillat delivered a short but sweet acoustic set for a group of fans, contest winners and station employees.
Actually, maybe that wasn't the next best thing. Maybe that was the best thing, period.
Clear Channel's performance space, located at their Gandy Boulevard office (home to 93.3 FLZ, Mix 100.7, 95.7 The Beat and 98 Rock, among other stations), was built to offer fans another way to get up close and personal with their favorite artists. It's not 100 percent finished, but to date, Lifehouse, We the Kings and The Maine have performed there, recording acoustic sets for the stations and their various Web sites.
"It was important to us that when artists come through and are giving with their time, that we put them in a good environment," said 93.3-FLZ program director Tommy Chuck.
More and more radio stations are building spaces like this. New York's Clear Channel offices, located in TriBeCa, is home to the P.C. Richard & Son Theater, a 5,500-square-foot venue that has hosted artists like Green Day, Justin Bieber and Kelly Clarkson.
The Tampa studio is nothing like that -- it looks a bit like a converted conference room, with seating for about 50 -- but that's an advantage when you're talking about an artist like Caillat, a two-time Grammy winner who later that night would be performing in a 2,180-seat concert hall.
"It's an intimate, up-close experience with the artist," Chuck said. "That's not the kind of thing you can do if you go to a show at the St. Pete Times Forum."
It was so intimate, in fact, that I'd say the crowd seemed almost nervous to be there. Caillat may look like the girl next door, but the contest winners on hand seemed a little shy about the fact that she was performing about 15 feet away.
Backed by two guitarists and a percussionist, Caillat performed three songs -- I Never Told You, Fallin' For You and Bubbly -- in her trademark easy-breezy hippie-chick warble. Her songs are perfectly suited for stripped-down acoustic performances like this; one imagines she's performed Bubbly dozens of times for radio stations across the country, and the band seems to have it down to a science. Caillat's guitar-plucking is simple yet effective, and her backup guys hit all their cues.
Caillat chatted a bit between songs -- she made sure to note her current obsession with Starbucks' huevos rancheros breakfast wraps -- and signed autographs and posed for photos with fans after the set.
The acoustics in the studio are pretty decent, and the riser is big enough to hold a full band. Clear Channel is planning to add curtains and a new, permanent backdrop to the stage. Once everything is up and running, it should be a great place for these so-called "secret shows."
Clear Channel carries a lot of juice in this town. If they can utilize that clout to bring in more big-name artists for acoustic sets like this one, it'll be a win for Tampa music fans, too.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*