This week in Tampa: Elton John and Leon Russell, Lyle Lovett, Toots and the Maytals and more
We know what you're thinking, and no, that's not a still of Gandalf the White and Bilbo Baggins from the wrap party for Lord of the Rings. It's rock legends Elton John and Leon Russell, whose new album The Union has led to rave reviews and a tour that hits Lakeland this weekend.
In addition to the John-Russell pairing, there is much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving week, including performances by Talib Kweli and MC Hammer (no, Hammer didn't replace Mos Def), Diana Ross, Toots and the Maytals, Lyle Lovett and our old friends The Ettes.
Here to walk you through it all is Hammer superfan Carole Liparoto ...
Elton John and Leon Russell
SUNDAY 8 p.m. Lakeland Center, 701 W Lime St., Lakeland. $57 and up. (863) 834-8100.
Pair one rocket man from Middlesex, England (whose famous garb includes sequined jumpsuits and novelty-sized glasses) with a cowboy Santa Claus from Tulsa, Okla. and you’ve got a musical odd couple, right? Well, not entirely. The bromance between grand pianists Elton John, 63, and Leon Russell, 68, is based on a shared passion for merging soul, pop, gospel and country music. John has said this tour, as well as the duo’s current Top 10 disc The Union (produced by T-Bone Burnett), is meant to pay a long-standing debt of inspiration to his idol Russell, whose writings for Joe Cocker and Delaney and Bonnie were particularly influential on him.
With Hans Condor, Cassolette
WEDNESDAY 7 p.m. The Local 662, 662 Central Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $10-$13. facebook.com/thelocal662.
Garage-rock nostalgists The Ettes deliver infectious, estrogen-fueled throwbacks with a punk snicker. Perfect for an evening at the roller derby, the group’s sound calls to mind the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or the Kills doing Joan Jett. The Ettes (two vixens, one dude) met in Central Florida before moving out to Los Angeles. Since then, they’ve opened dates for the Dead Weather and Kings of Leon and played Austin City Limits. The band just returned from London where they recorded their fourth album (still tough and fuzzy, but plenty catchy) with Liam Watson (White Stripes, the Kills).
Toots and the Maytals
With The Constellations
FRIDAY 8 p.m. Jannus Live, 16 Second St. N, St. Petersburg. $20. (727) 565-0551.
The hardest working man in reggae returns to Tampa Bay for a second time this year. And we couldn’t be happier. Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, a showman brimming with soul power, continues to douse chilled-out island tunes with vocal fire like James Brown’s Caribbean relative (Funky Kingston and 54-46 Was My Number). Both an exorcisor of demons and the life of the party, the 64-year-old released R&B-leaning Flip & Twist, an album that’s as much Kingston, Jamaica as it is ’60s Detroit, earlier this year.
With Joell Ortiz
FRIDAY 9 p.m. The Ritz, 1503 Seventh Ave., Ybor City. $22. (813) 247-2555.
Artists on mainstream rap radio don’t drop Norman Mailer references in their verses. Consequently, Talib Kweli isn’t on mainstream rap radio. On Kanye West-produced Get By, Kweli’s more-on-strife, less-on-ice dissection (we love the line, “We commute to computers just to get by”) strays far from the Soulja Boy stylings of today. (Unfortunately, sharp comes off boring to too many listeners). The Brooklyn MC, whose name means “truth seeker” in Arabic, set out on a solo career after Black Star partner Mos Def shifted his focus to acting.
WEDNESDAY Following Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Rangers (game starts at 7:30 p.m.). St. Pete Times Forum (outside plaza), 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. Free with game ticket. (813) 301-2500.
Full disclosure: In the early ’90s, while other girls drooled over Joey and Jordan of NKOTB, I was hung up on the Hammer. I sported his backpack. I watched his Saturday morning cartoon show. I drank his Pepsi. And though I’d later learn his taste for lavish living (particularly home waterfalls, according to Behind the Music), did him in financially, I haven’t forgotten about one of the few men in history to be defined by a pair of pants. When his debut held strong at No. 1 for 21 straight weeks on the Billboard charts in 1990, rap artists became free to achieve pop superstardom. And for that, they should remember him, too.
SATURDAY 8 p.m. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. Tickets are $63-$129. rutheckerdhall.com.
Diva. The word gets thrown around all willy-nilly these days, doesn’t it? Female WWE wrestlers are known as Divas. There’s a show called Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime. A quick Google search brings up results for a Lingerie Diva, a Cake Diva, an Evil Diva, Red Hot Divas and a Surf Diva surfing school. Saturday, one of the world’s most legendary owners of the title comes to Clearwater — Diana Ross. She’s the big-haired, flamboyant former lead singer of the Supremes, the woman who routinely performs in head-to-toe rhinestones, who was BFFs with Michael Jackson. Heck, Ross had an entire VH1 Divas concert dedicated in her honor. -- Stephanie Hayes
Lyle Lovett and His Large Band
SUNDAY 7 p.m. Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg. $53-$96. (727) 892-5767.
Beneath a nest of dark hair, the slender and gentlemanly Lyle Lovett provides witty, perceptive music (we’re still trying to figure out how he got that pony on the boat), ranging from folk and big-band swing to pop and thinking man’s country — stuff that’s stood out from formulaic Nashville tunes for more than 25 years. Lovett’s 10-member Large Band (“it’s not big, it’s large”), possibly the best backing band name until Conan’s Basic Cable Band came along, provides oomph to Lovett’s Randy Newman-meets-Townes Van Zandt style, one that’s full of wry tales and black humor.
Little Manatee River Jam
Featuring The Damon Fowler Group, Have Gun, Will Travel, Talk To Mark, Ed Carter, The Grecian Urns
SATURDAY 2 p.m. The Canoe Outpost, Route 301, Wimauma. $15-$20. (813) 238-8001.
We’ve never been to Wimauma. But the Little Manatee River Jam sounds like the perfect reason to go. The event will feature some of Tampa Bay’s best local bands, including Blind Pig Records bluesman Damon Fowler, Spaghetti Western rock outfit Have Gun, Will Travel, and versatile, bar-rock revivalists Talk to Mark.
Aaron Gillespie (acoustic) Fri. With Set It Off. 6 p.m. The Neptune Lounge, 13 S Safford Ave., Tarpon Springs. $10. (727) 943-5713.
BT Fri. With DJ Goofy White Kid, DJ Gemini. 9 p.m. The Venue, 2675 Ulmerton Rd., Clearwater. No cover for ladies. (727) 571-2222
Trailer Choir Fri. 9 p.m. The Round Up, 13918 W Hillsborough Ave., Tampa. $10-$12. (813) 855-1464.
Ken Kong Fri. With Manifest Destiny, more. 7 p.m. Refuge Courtyard at Palm Bay Hotel, 711 Third Ave., St. Petersburg. $5-$7. (727) 278-1547.
Andy Matchett and the Minks Sat. With Alexander and the Grapes, Dave Daniels and the PTA, Mother Night. 9 p.m. New World Brewery, 1313 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. $7. (813) 248-4969.
Jimmy Needs Meds Sat. 9:30 p.m. Break Room, 4313 Gunn Highway, Tampa. Free. (813) 374-0349.
Paint the Town Red Sat. With The Funky Pandas, Adam Simons. 7 p.m. The Hideaway Café, 1756 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. $7. (727) 644-7895.
Jim Lauderdale Sat. With Blue Cypress. 8 p.m. Skipper’s Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road, Tampa. $12-$15. (813) 971-0666.
Jamie’s Elsewhere Sat. With Before Their Eyes, Ice Nine Kills, more. 6 p.m. State Theatre, 687 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. $16. (727) 895-3045.
Drivin N Cryin Sat. 8 p.m. Jannus Live, 16 Second St. N, St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 565-0551.
Live-N-Let-Die Sat. featuring The Rockaways. 6 p.m. Colorama Music Premier Performance Club, 9302 Denton Ave., Hudson. $24. (727) 863-7539.
Glenn Leonard’s Motown Revue Sun. 7:30 p.m. Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo. $38-$43. (727) 587-6793.
Larry Coryell Sun. With Kenny Drew, Jr. 3 p.m. Mainstage Theater, HCC Performing Arts Building, corner of Palm Avenue and 14th St., Ybor City. $25-$30. (813) 253-7695.
Mark Barrios Sun. 4:30 p.m. The Lobster Pot Bistro, 731 Bayway Blvd., Clearwater Beach. Free. (727) 446-8809.
The Supervillains Sun. 7 p.m. State Theatre, 687 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. $16. (727) 895-3045.
Miss May I Tues. 6 p.m. Orpheum, 1902 Republica de Cuba Ave., Ybor City. $18. (813) 248-9500.
Celtic Thunder Tues. 8 p.m. Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Rd., Clearwater. $61 and up. (727) 791-7400.
-- Carole Liparoto, tbt*. Photo: Getty Images.