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Review: Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles goes solo, gets soulful at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater

Jennifer Nettles performs at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Feb. 27, 2014.

Jay Cridlin

Jennifer Nettles performs at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Feb. 27, 2014.

In another era, Jennifer Nettles could have been a pop star.

Sure, she’s kind of a pop star now, singing in one of the biggest country bands around, Sugarland. But send her new solo album, That Girl, back in time to 1997 or 1973, and watch it blow people’s minds.

Produced by Rick Rubin, the soulful, stripped-down album forced Nettles to rein in and refine her brassy, belt-it-out voice, and the result is a record that stacks up against any released by (take your pick) Carole King, Carly Simon, Sheryl Crow, Tracy Chapman, Paula Cole, Shawn Colvin or any other member of the Lilith Generation.

The sold-out crowd of 2,003 at Nettles’ concert Thursday at Ruth Eckerd Hall would not disagree. In a venue far more intimate than those she’s used to, Nettles pleased fans both old and new, delivering reimagined Sugarland favorites and showcasing the softer and more sensual side we see on That Girl, revealing the true range and power of her magnificent South Georgia warble.Full Story

Review: The Black Angels, Roky Erickson dive deep into psychedelia at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg

The Black Angels and Roky Erickson performed at the State Theatre on Feb. 26, 2014.

Brian Mahar

The Black Angels and Roky Erickson performed at the State Theatre on Feb. 26, 2014.

Psychedelia is back. Not in the way that you feel you need magic mushrooms or LSD, but in the way guitar riffs bend and bounce back in reverb, followed by the echo of lyrics you can’t quite make out but somehow understand.

That, my friends, is the sound of the Black Angels, who played to a nearly full house at the State Theatre Wednesday night. Swallowed in a swirl of feedback and hallucinatory inducing projections, the Austin, Texas rockers took St. Petersburg on a journey into Indigo Meadow, their fourth studio album, in the way a pop-up book comes to life.

Singer Alex Maas’ distorted vocals soared atop Christian Bland’s deep, digging strings in a booming version of Evil Things, and quickly plowed into album single Don’t Play with Guns. Maas’ eyes closed as he seemed to conjure up spirits from decades past as he sang, “I hear colors running through my mind / I can feel it dripping in my eyes / I see colors ancient spectrum lives,” in I Hear Colors (Chromaesthesia). You couldn’t help but think of the Rolling Stones’ Paint it Black. …

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Alton Brown talks 'Good Eats,' playing music, developing a live show and more

Alton Brown, who leapt to fame with his Good Eats show on the Food Network 15 years ago, has kept his career moving with cookbooks, culinary competition programs (Iron Chef, Next Food Network Star and Cutthroat Kitchen) and live stage shows.

And this weekend, he wraps up the current stretch of his raucous The Edible Inevitable Tour with a stop at the Straz Center in Tampa. It's not exactly Good Eats on the road, even though there's a bit of science, some standup comedy and even some music (he writes lyrics).

"It's really 21/2 hours of a classic variety show," Brown said in a recent phone interview.

Brown's Edible Inevitable Tour hits the Straz Center at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets start at $40; click here to get them.

For more of Janet K. Keeler's interview with Alton Brown, click here.

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This week in Tampa: Florida Strawberry Festival, ZZ Top, Collective Soul, Paramore and more

One of the Tampa Bay area's biggest musical events kicks off today: The Florida Strawberry Festival, with 11 days and nights of big-name country acts like Rascal Flatts, the Band Perry, Little Big Town, Josh Turner, Lee Brice and more, plus a few notable non-country acts, like Styx, Boyz II Men and Third Day. Click here for our preview of the 2014 Florida Strawberry Festival.

There's a lot more music happening around town this week, including ZZ Top, Paramore, Collective Soul, Lifehouse, the Bright Light Social Hour, Gato Barbieri, Bernie Worrell, Ed Kowalczyk, Tate Stevens, G. Love and Special Sauce, Saliva, Two Cow Garage, Emblem3, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and more. Here to walk you through it all is Ray Roa...

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Review: Demi Lovato brings girl power, vocal prowess to the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa

Demi Lovato performs at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Feb 26, 2014.

Luis Santana

Demi Lovato performs at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Feb 26, 2014.

Bright pink hair whipped from side to side as Demi Lovato belted out her hits at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Wednesday night.

At times, she got down and rolled her hips a bit, thrusting her pelvis and reminding the audience she's no longer the Disney-kid, Camp Rock star of old.

But for the majority of the 20-song set on her Neon Lights Tour, Lovato reminded her fans that vocal talent is what sets her apart from her contemporaries. She delivered powerful high notes in her opening number, the radio blaster Heart Attack, and kept the show rolling from there.

The crowd of 6,818 was largely teen girls, and the self-proclaimed "Lovatics" were fully invested in every note of every song. They traveled from around the state to see the X Factor judge put on her show, and the ear-ringing screeches indicated that she delivered. Full Story

Review: Iron and Wine get loose, bring lightness and levity to the Straz Center in Tampa

Sam Beam of Iron and Wine performs at the Straz Center in Tampa on Feb. 26, 2014.

Sam Beam of Iron and Wine performs at the Straz Center in Tampa on Feb. 26, 2014.

When the hell did Sam Beam grow a sense of humor?

Okay, that’s mean. He’s probably quite the jolly old soul, deep beneath those bushy backwoods whiskers. But as Iron and Wine, Beam was the new millennium’s original bard of sad-bastardry, soundtracking hushed coffeehouse breakups long before the world discovered Justin Vernon or Robin Pecknold.

So who was this bearded, bemused soul who played Tampa’s Straz Center on Wednesday, giving 981 fans a lighthearted, seat-off-his-pants tour of the deepest depths of his catalog – and doing it all with a carefree smile and a twinkle in his eye? Where’s this guy been?

Playing almost entirely solo, Beam improvised his setlist straight from audience suggestions, risking (and making) missteps along the way – a dropped chord here, a hiccupped lyric there. But he chuckled off every imperfection, fostering an intimacy with the crowd that made Ferguson Hall feel like your living room.

“There are songs I can do in my sleep,” Beam said, “but that’s not fun, right?” Full Story

Ticket Window: Lady Antebellum, Jay Leno, Drive-By Truckers and more

This week, you have your usual assortment of notable concerts with tickets going on sale, but one in particular caught our eye: The Cowhead Show Funeral and Roast on April 10 at the T. Pepin Hospitality Centre in Tampa. An all-star lineup of comics, including Jim Norton (above), Bert Kreischer, Greg Fitzsimmons, Jim Florentine, Robert Kelly, Maurice Jovan and Johnny B. will roast Mike "Cowhead" Calta and his radio show. Sounds intriguing!

Other Tampa Bay concerts and events with tickets going on sale this week: Jay Leno (5 p.m. show, March 29, State Theatre), The Cowhead Show Funeral and Roast (April 10, T. Pepin Hospitality Centre), Whitechapel (April 25, Orpheum), M. Ward (May 1, State Theatre), Dick Dale (May 2, State Theatre), You Me At Six (May 9, State Theatre), Lady Antebellum (May 17, State Theatre), Ingrid Michaelson (May 18, State Theatre), Drive-By Truckers (June 3, Tampa Theatre) and all Tampa Bay Rays single-game tickets.

Click here for this week's edition of Ticket Window.

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Thompson Square's Keifer and Shawna Thompson talk touring while married, bringing hair metal to country, shopping at T.J. Maxx and more

You would think the touring life would take a toll on Keifer and Shawna Thompson, a.k.a. the hit-making hubby-wife duo Thompson Square. Cramped tour buses, scant private time, a lack of cuddly coupleness that helped drive 2010 breakout hit Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not to No. 1 on the country charts.

You would think that — and you would be wrong.

"Actually I think we're happier on the road," says Keifer, who'll bring his bride to the Florida Strawberry Festival on Sunday for one of the must-see shows on this year's lineup. "When we're home too long, we start to hate each other. We invite other people over so we won't get a divorce."

Get a taste of Thompson Square's lovey-dovey life on the road when they perform at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City. Tickets are $25, though there are a limited number of free seats on a first-come, first-served basis. Click here.

For more of Sean Daly's interview with Thompson Square -- as well as a full preview of the music at the Florida Strawberry Festival, including shows by Rascal Flatts, the Band Perry, Little Big Town and more -- click here.

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Bob Newhart talks Sid Caesar, 'Big Bang Theory,' performing in his 80s and more and more

Bob Newhart turns 85 this year, and remains a legend for staggered generations. There's his standup, his sitcoms, Elf, The Big Bang Theory, even 1990s repeats on Nick at Nite.

He could call it a career, rest on The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart, the priceless one-way phone calls still living on YouTube. But he keeps working. He just reprised his Professor Proton character on The Big Bang Theory, and on Saturday he'll perform at Clearwater's Capitol Theatre (tickets are $50-$98, click here).

"You're not dead at 85," he said in a phone interview. "You're a long way from it. Go out and enjoy. You've earned it."

For more of Stephanie Hayes' interview with Newhart, click here.

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Artist of the day: The Battersby Duo

Tim and Laura Battersby are a rarity in these parts: Artists based in Tampa Bay who actually have a Grammy.

As the Battersby Duo, the Brooksville husband and wife won a Grammy in 2012 for their contributions to the children's album All About Bullies ... Big And Small. Over the years they've performed on Sesame Street and at the White House, among countless other venues.

But it's been a tough year for the Battersby Duo. Ten months ago, Tim awoke one night with a loss of feeling on one side of his body. Emergency room doctors recognized that he was in the throes of a life-threatening stroke and immediately began treatment.

"I don't think many people realize just how precious their health is," the 64-year-old English-born musician said. "I was so focused on what I do for a living that I wasn't thinking about what it was doing to me."

For more on the Battersby Duo, click here for Logan Neill's story.

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Drive-By Truckers coming to the Tampa Theatre in Tampa

The last time Drive-By Truckers booked a show in Tampa, things got kind of messy. The southern rockers were scheduled to play a private show at the Ritz Ybor during the Republican National Convention when word leaked about their performance, prompting frontman Patterson Hood to bow out.

"We're not being sneaky, but playing a private function is not the same as having a public face shown hanging out at the RNC," Hood wrote on Facebook.

Hopefully all political rancor will be off the plate when Drive-By Truckers return to Tampa with a show at the Tampa Theatre on June 3. Tickets to the show are $26-$32 and they'll go on sale Friday. Click here for details.

Regardless of your political stripes, Tampa music fans come out winners in this one. Garden and Gun magazine recently called Hood "The Southern Springsteen," and they've beome one of the South's top alt-country-rock groups. In a week they'll release English Oceans, their 10th studio album. It may not have the same ring as some of their other albums (Gangstabilly; Pizza Deliverance; Alabama Ass Whuppin'; Ugly Buildings, Whores and Politicians), but it's bound to be just as soulful.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

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M. Ward coming to the State Theatre in St. Petersburg

Okay, fine, so we're not getting Zooey Deschanel. The Him half of She & Him is still headed our way.

Singer-songwriter M. Ward is coming to the State Theatre on May 1. Tickets are $20-$23 and they'll go on sale this Friday. Click here.

Though he's an acclaimed singer-songwriter in his own right, he has over the years become best known for collaborations -- most notably his airy, indie-folksy duo with Deschanel, but also Monsters of Folk with Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and My Morning Jacket's Jim James. He's also a well-known producer of and collaborator with artists like Norah Jones, Jenny Lewis, Beth Orton and Neko Case.

His last album was She & Him's Volume Three -- he hasn't released a solo album since 2012's A Wasteland Companion -- so expect a mix of songs from throughout his career.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

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SoundBytes: Action Bronson, Boys Noize, Ingrid Michaelson and more

-- Rapper Action Bronson, above, will headline the Friday-night party at this year's Tampa Pro, the biggest annual event at the Skatepark of Tampa. It'll take place March 21 at the Orpheum, 1915 E Seventh Ave. Click here.

-- Acclaimed and popular German DJ Boys Noize is coming to the Amphitheatre in Tampa on May 16. Tickets are $15. Click here.

-- Pop singer-songwriters are the flavor of the month this May at the State Theatre. First it's Christina Perri on May 3, and now the State has announced a show by the popular Ingrid Michaelson on May 18. Tickets are $30-$32, and they'll go on sale Feb. 28. Click here.

-- British rock outfit You Me At Six are coming to the State Theatre on May 9. Tickets are $15-$17, and they'll go on sale Friday. Click here.

-- Rapper Curren$y will return to Tampa with a gig at the Orpheum on March 10. Tickets are $20-$25. Click here.

-- Jim Brickman's concert on March 20 has been moved from Ruth Eckerd Hall to the Capitol Theatre. Click here.

-- Details are scant, but the Doobie Brothers have announced a May 4 tour date at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Click here.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

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Jay Leno adds show at Capitol Theatre in Clearwater

Jay Leno performs at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater on Feb. 9, 2014.

Luis Santana

Jay Leno performs at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater on Feb. 9, 2014.

When Jay Leno performed at Clearwater's Capitol Theatre just days after ending his run as host of the Tonight Show, tickets sold out so fast that even some Ruth Eckerd Hall members didn't get to buy them. When he added another show on March 29, those seats sold out quickly, too.

But now, maybe, finally, you have one more chance to see Leno. The former Tonight Show host has added one more show at 5 p.m. March 29 at the Capitol Theatre. Tickets to that show, like the others, are $85-$195, and they'll go on sale at noon Saturday. Given what a hot ticket the first two shows were, you'd better hop on this one as soon as possible.

Click here for more info on Leno's upcoming Capitol Theatre shows.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

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Blake Shelton coming to the Amway Center in Orlando

It doesn't often happen that a country A-lister routes his tour around Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre. But this summer, Tampa's loss is Orlando's gain.

Blake Shelton will bring his 2014 Ten Times Crazier Tour to Orlando's Amway Center on Aug. 30. The four-time-reigning CMA Male Vocalist of the Year hasn't announced much else, including an opening act, ticket prices or even an on-sale date, but at least he's giving you six months' notice that he's coming. That's something.

Maybe Shelton's wife, Miranda Lambert, will decide to come this way instead. In the meantime, click here for more on Blake's summer date in Orlando.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

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