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Review: James Blunt unplugs on the rooftop of Push Ultra Lounge in St. Petersburg

28

January

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Walking to lunch at about 2:30 p.m. Friday, your humble Soundcheck editor heard music coming from the rooftop of Push Ultra Lounge in downtown St. Petersburg. It was tough to make out the voice, but the melody sounded familiar.

Turns out it was English singer-songwriter James Blunt, soundchecking for a private acoustic concert for a few dozen Play 98.7 contest winners. He doesn't have a concert in town or anything; he's just making the radio rounds to promote his new album Some Kind of Trouble, and the Tampa Bay market was on his itinerary.

A plaintive soul like Blunt, performing in the sunny open air of downtown St. Petersburg? This was a far cry from Sasha Grey, the porn star/DJ who came to Push two weeks ago.

Push can be a lovely little concert venue when it wants, as was the case for shows by Pete Yorn and The Airborne Toxic Event, among others. But its strongest selling point might be the rooftop lounge, which radio stations have used for short acoustic sets by Matisyahu, Blue October, Ludo and more.

We've written a lot about Clear Channel's Best Buy Musical Instruments Theatre, and with good reason -- it's a very cool setup that enables fans to interact with artists on a remarkably intimate level. Other radio enterprises don't have that luxury -- including CBS Radio, which owns the new Play 98.7. In the past, CBS stations (like Wild 94.1 or WQYK 99.5) have simply staged acoustic performances and meet-and-greets in a conference room of their St. Petersburg office complex. It works.

But with Blunt, Play shot a little higher -- with enjoyable results.

The weather was breezy but beautiful atop Push's rooftop, where about 40 (mostly female) fans, station and club employees and sundry hangers-on (like yours truly) were gathered. Blunt grabbed his guitar about 3 p.m. for the four-song set: The ballads Same Mistake, You're Beautiful and If Time is All I Have, plus the bouncy new single Stay The Night

Blunt is aware of his rep as a weepy singer-songwriter, and was happy to poke a little fun at himself. "I should be arrested for doing this outdoors, exposing myself in this way," he cracked.

When a handful of curious women gathered on a deck of the SunTrust Bank building across the street, Blunt waved at them. "Take your clothes off!" he yelled.

The set was over after just four songs, at which point Blunt posed for photos with the contest winners. It wasn't a full show, but so what? On a 65-degree day like Friday, would you rather be inside an office (or radio studio), or outside on the roof of one of St. Petersburg's most underrated venues?

Same here. Here's hoping Play plans a return trip to Push in the very near future.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

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[Last modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 4:44pm]

    

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