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The best Tampa Bay concerts of 2013, Part 7: Drake, LL Cool J, Imagine Dragons and more



(All week on Soundcheck, our contributors are looking back at the best local concerts of 2013. Today: tbt* photographer Luis Santana.)

2013 was a good year for music in the Tampa Bay area with big-name tours stopping by. Here are some of my favorite concert moments of 2013:

LL Cool J (June 6, Mahaffey Theater): I photographed dozens of concerts in 2013, but none can compare to the experience I had at the Kings Of The Mic Tour at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. As a photojournalist my job is to document and not be part of the story, but when LL Cool J pulls you onto the stage and poses for you in the middle of his performance, you gotta do what you gotta do! This was probably the coolest experience I have ever had photographing concerts. So my “performance” with LL Cool J was not only my 2013 best concert moment, but as of today, my top concert moment of all time.

Jason Derulo/Ying Yang Twins (May 26/Aug. 31, Shephard’s Beach Resort): Believe it or not, Shephard’s Beach Resort on Clearwater Beach is one of my favorite spots to photograph concerts. Although they don’t bring in huge acts like the Forum or Amphitheatre, they do bring acts that pack the house. Two memorable shows were Jason Derulo and the Ying Yang Twins.

Now, I have photographed them both in years past, but the great access that we get from the staff at Shephard’s allows me to capture some great moments. Like the time I hung out with Jordin Sparks backstage before her fiance’s performance. We even managed to get in a selfie before the show. Jason Derulo is a great singer and performer and he puts on a high energy show. Highly recommended to catch his show if you get a chance.

Another memorable concert was the Ying Yang Twins. It was a typical Ying Yang Twins show, with lots of energy and drinking on stage. This concert was memorable to me because during the course of the performance, I noticed Kane got more and more drunk as he downed gulps of Patron while performing. Towards the end of the show Kane was missing from the stage and left D-Roc and his homies to fill in while he was off drinking Patron in the crowd. He missed about three songs and literally had to be carried back to the tour bus! Classic Ying Yang.

Imagine Dragons (Sept. 24, USF Sun Dome): Imagine Dragons was a show I really looked forward to shooting, since a year prior, we followed them for an entire day as they did a press tour around local radio stations. At the time the guys hauled their own gear, set up and broke down gear at their shows, signed autographs for fans outside of their bus. They were a hardworking group that grabbed quick naps in between appearances, but always delivered quality during show time. Their show at the USF Sun Dome was great — bigger drums, bigger sound and bigger crowds. It was neat to see the progression of the band during the year since we saw them last. One thing is for sure, the Grammy-nominated Imagine Dragons are a prime example of hard work and talent paying off.

Drake (Nov. 6, Tampa Bay Times Forum): As a longtime Drake fan, I look forward to photographing him anytime he comes to town. His show at the Tampa Bay Times Forum along with Future and Miguel was his largest yet. An amazing stage, lighting and awesome flying platform made his show unforgettable.

Robin Thicke (Dec. 18, 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball, Tampa Bay Times Forum): Once it was announced that Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke were headlining the 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball, I was excited to photograph the show. Miley has been on my list of people to photograph for a long time. Robin Thicke recently popped onto my list because the constant rotation of his hit song Blurred Lines has been burned into my brain. Robin Thicke was a gentlemen not only on stage but backstage, in the elevator and on the red carpet. Every encounter with him was positive. His stage performance was great too, jumping on top of his piano and into the photo pit; taking selfies with fans made for great photos.

Let’s talk about the great shows that came through Tampa that we were NOT able to photograph. Bruno Mars and Kanye West did not allow any press to photograph their shows. As a Kanye West fan, I really wanted to photograph the show, but at the last minute we were informed by the tour that no press photographers were allowed to shoot the show. So instead I stayed home and watched Instagram and Twitter feeds of cell phone photos and videos.

-- Luis Santana, tbt*

[Last modified: Friday, December 20, 2013 1:01pm]


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