Tampa Bay's best concerts of 2015, Part 4: Death Grips, Chris Cornell, Run the Jewels and more
(Through the end of the year on Soundcheck, our contributors are looking back at the best local concerts of 2015. Today: Soundcheck contributor Stephanie Bolling.)
Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman (Feb. 14, Tampa Theatre): The one-night only gig dubbed “Heartbreak Hotel” featured music, readings and a Q&A with rock star Amanda Palmer and her husband, author Neil Gaiman. Together, they showcased their love, work and devotion to their fans (and disdain of Valentine’s Day). Palmer performed popular hits on the piano and Gaiman read book excerpts at the podium. The exclusive gig provided an insight into the couple’s personal life and art forms, making it memorable benchmark for adoring fans.
Run the Jewels and James Blake (Big Guava Music Fest, May 8-9, Florida State Fairgrounds): Run the Jewels’ 45-minute set of non-stop, turnt-up jams could have been billed as a cardio dance workout video. The grinding bass and raucous rhymes combined with a dank Expo Hall provided the perfect mid-day rager for the Big Guava Music Festival. Killer Mike’s hurt shoulder didn’t stop the dynamic duo’s Florida debut. They pulled out all the high-energy tracks, including Close Your Eyes (And Count to F---), Oh My Darling Don’t Cry, Pew Pew Pew and Love Again. It was a show the Bay area had yet to see, and won’t again for some time.
Never would I have thought I’d see James Blake in Florida, nonetheless Tampa. Nor would I have chosen Expo Hall for a venue. And now, I can’t imagine it any other way. The jaw-dropping reverb of bending acoustics that filled the hall seemed to escape space and time. Hearing Blake’s heart-stopping rendition of Limit to Your Love, ethereal Overgrown and transcendent Retrograde felt almost supernatural in the electronic air grounded by his tender voice. Definitely an unforgettable performance for those present.
Death Grips (Oct. 8, State Theatre): It happened. It finally happened. Part of the allure was the “Will they or won’t they?” nature to any Death Grips concert. But they did, finally. From the moment MC Ride and Zach Hill appeared, they barreled into what sounded like one breathless, 90-minute mixtape. No time for chatting. Fierce, intense, powerful music only. It was louder, noisier and more cacophonous live than recorded, and the crowd loved every single morsel of it. Their contagious energy and sporadic sounds made for disorientation alongside invigoration. The feeling and scene, albeit indescribable, stayed with you long after.
Chris Cornell (Oct. 30, Mahaffey Theater): The ’90s grunge pioneer pulled out every stop from his 31-year musical career in an extended acoustic set. He hadn’t lost an inch vocally and personally. Between his candor with fans and divine execution of age-old classics and covers, Cornell put on an extraordinary performance for the sold-out crowd. The quintessential culmination of nostalgia unfolded a lifetime of soundtracks into a flawless 2 ½-hour show that made all the ’90s kids’ hearts sing.
-- Stephanie Bolling