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Review: Flo Rida finishes strong at the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in St. Petersburg

12

February

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The temperature was low, low, low, low. We all could have used some of those boots with the fur.

But in the end, there were nothing but good feelings in North Straub Park in St. Petersburg on Sunday as Flo Rida welcomed home some 8,000 runners in the inaugural Rock 'n' Roll St. Pete Half Marathon.

Performing with an indefatigable energy befitting his surroundings, the Carol City hip-popper welcomed fans onstage, worked up a marathon-quality sweat, surfed through the crowd, delivered No. 1 after No. 1 hit and gave away the shirt off his back, the shoes off his feet and much, much more. Only a performer as jacked up as Flo Rida could perform at a road race and end up handing out more free swag than race organizers.

But oh, holy heck: That cold. It was brutal.

Temps were in the 30s early in the morning when I hopped on my bike to check out several of the bands along the track. The concept is an fun one -- mostly local groups performing every so often along the track -- although it was quickly apparent that a lot of runners had on headphones, so many of the songs fell on deaf earmuffs.

But not always. On Central Avenue, St. Pete's Bus Stop played a long, funky megamix that included snippets of hits like Moves Like Jagger, and when they asked the crowd to "lemme hear you say, 'Ooooh!'," a bunch of runners actually threw their hands in the air and went "Ooooh!"

At the entrance to the Pier, St. Pete's John Q. played fist-pumping alt-country, like a rustier Kings of Leon. Power-poppers The Semis staked out some of the best real estate of the entire race, across from the Mahaffey Theater and Dali Museum, right along the waterfront. (The chilly weather gave singer Billy Summer a perfect opportunity to show off a nifty fur parka hood, which probably doesn't get a lot of use at clubs in Florida.) Near Vinoy Park, Ohio bar-grunge group Lorenzo noted the "balmy 40 degrees" on the thermostat by saying, "This is what we sound like when we're frozen."

By 10 a.m., with more than 8,000 runners crossing or about to cross the finish line, Flo Rida took the stage, and I have to say, it's hard to imagine a better marriage of performer and venue. Who could possibly say how many of the runners in St. Pete's inaugural Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon had a little Flo on their jogging playlists Sunday morning? Not only that, but the man has the hottest hit in the country right now, a driving exercise jam called Good Feeling, whose video actually features Flo Rida working out. Talk about a runner's high.

I've heard nothing but good things about Flo Rida's live shows, and the hype is definitely warranted. After leading with the infectious singles In The Ayer, Who Dat Girl and Where Them Girls At, Flo delivered his first massive megahit of the evening: Low. And he did it by welcoming some 30 runners and fans onstage, many of them wearing medals, numbers and foil space blankets. Flo sang with kids, gave a little girl his gold chain, had 30-something runners shake their lycra-clad moneymakers and generally created a riotously feel-good atmosphere throughout North Straub Park.

Hey, spekaing of feeling good: Good Feeling! It's the No. 1 pop song in the country right now, so of course Flo was going to close with it. But of course, he had to go above and beyond, hopping onto a bodyguard's shoulders and meandering through the crowd, slapping five with bouncing audience members.

When the song ended, Flo took it down just a notch for a dedication, saying: "Much love for the late, great, Whitney Houston." Then, saying it was "always good to walk in other people's shoes," he removed his own kicks, autographed them, brought that beat back and threw them into the crowd -- all, he said, "in commemorance of Whitney Houston." (Sidebar: "Commemorance?" Whatever. It's the thought that counts.)

As Good Feeling bounded back to life, so did the crowd, and they did until the song ended with Flo collapsing onstage, evidently as exhausted as everyone else. It's amazing what he managed to achieve Sunday morning: Grown men and women who'd just run more than 13 miles were hopping, dancing, shaking and grooving. Maybe it's true what he says -- the club really can't handle him. Maybe he just needs to be around people just as energetic as him.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

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[Last modified: Sunday, February 12, 2012 12:49pm]

    

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