*SIX CONCERTS. EIGHT DAYS. ONE VENUE.
Ford Amphitheatre employees have their work cut out for them this coming week, when the Tampa shed plays host to concerts by Kenny Chesney; Coldplay; Dave Matthews Band; Incubus; Def Leppard, Poison and Cheap Trick; and the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival, starring Marilyn Manson and Slayer. • What's the common thread connecting these artists? You got us. But we're determined to find one. • In the spirit of the Kevin Bacon game, here's our attempt to link tractorphile Kenny Chesney to the devil incarnate, Marilyn Manson. The only rule: We had to hit each of our Ford Amphitheatre headliners along the way. We managed to whittle it down to 12 degrees of separation. Can you do better?
Jay Cridlin, Times staff writer
The bedenimed king of Key West, and heir to the Parrothead throne, might be the biggest and most reliable concert draw in the land. Every summer, like clockwork, he's back with a new round of honky-tonkin' classics, from How Forever Feels to No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problems (plus a certain ode to tractorlust that drives the chickies wild). But Chesney isn't afraid to step outside his comfort zone every once in a while. He has performed tracks written by Bruce Springsteen and recorded with Joe Walsh and the Wailers. And on 2008's Lucky Old Sun, Chesney sang a duet with the frontman from . . .
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND
Phew. Two artists with a direct connection. That was easy enough. Yep, Matthews and Chesney collaborated on the track I'm Alive, which might come as a shock to fans of the Dave Matthews Band, another group of summer stalwarts whose jazzy, jam-influenced pop rock have made them the most popular group with the hippie set since . . .
The recently reunited jam-band heroes aren't coming to Tampa Bay this summer, but frontman Trey Anastasio and Dave Matthews go way back. In fact, when Matthews released his solo album Some Devil in 2003, Anastasio became part of his touring band, known as Dave Matthews & Friends. The two even performed together on Saturday Night Live. Other hippie bands are also keeping the Phish phlame alive, such as . . .
"Phish was one of the first bands I got really, really into," Incubus singer Brandon Boyd told Relix magazine in June. "I'd drive halfway across the country to go to one of their shows, and we'd always make an adventure out of it. The personalities created in that band are so unique." The spaced-out rockers are known for hits like Pardon Me, Drive and Wish You Were Here. But in June, Incubus released a two-disc greatest hits album, Monuments and Melodies, that concluded with a cover of Let's Go Crazy by . . .
Ah, yes, Prince. Covering a song by the Purple One is the ultimate way for any rock or pop artist to say things they would never say themselves. Sinead O'Connor did it with Nothing Compares 2 U. Foo Fighters did it with Darling Nikki. And in 1997, Prince's song The Beautiful Ones, a downtempo ballad about unrequited love off the Purple Rain soundtrack, got an update from . . .
. . . who, rumor has it, recorded the song as a dig at her ex-husband, Tommy Mottola. Mariah has remade a number of pop classics over the years — with her pipes, wouldn't you? — but one of her oddest cover choices surfaced on 2002's Charmbracelet. Recorded with American Idol's Randy Jackson and flopping before it even sniffed the charts, the ballad Bringin' On the Heartbreak was a cover of a song by . . .
The British hair metal heroes are still plenty popular with Reagan-era holdovers, touring the world with other '80s legends like Poison and Cheap Trick. That's a pretty killer lineup, assuming you still have a soft spot for me-centric strip-club anthems like Pour Some Sugar On Me, Talk Dirty To Me and I Want You To Want Me. Speaking of Cheap Trick, drummer Bun E. Carlos recently started a weird-as-hell supergroup called . . .
. . . which also includes Taylor "Mmmbop" Hanson on vocals, Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha on guitar and Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger on bass. Strange combo, huh? Well, it turns out Iha and Schlesinger are old buddies. In fact, in 2005, they also collaborated on a Hurricane Katrina relief single called In the Sun. In addition to Iha and Schlesinger, In the Sun featured vocal performances by R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and Chris Martin of . . .
Coldplay has its share of haters in the world, thanks to Martin's mewling vocals and the band's overall British Wuss Factor (or "BWF," as they say in the industry). But even after winning multiple Grammys, the band raised its game to another level with the ambitious, passionate Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, their best album to date and the bestselling album of 2008. If you don't already own it, it's worth splurging to get the deluxe Prospekt's March edition, which includes eight more songs, including a third version of Lost, which features a guest appearance by, of all people . . .
Sorry, Kanye. Even after abdicating his post as CEO of Def Jam Recordings, the Jigga Man still reigns supreme at the top of the hip-hop world. Just listen to 99 Problems one more time, and you'll understand why. That track was the centerpiece of Jay-Z's seminal 2003 work, The Black Album, which was produced by . . .
At some point, all games of Six Degrees of Musical Separation must pass through Rubin's beard. The legendary producer has coaxed career-best albums from Run-DMC, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Dixie Chicks, not to mention all-time classics from artists as diverse as Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Linkin Park, Weezer, Shakira, Metallica, the Beastie Boys and . . .
Rubin and Slayer have been linked at the hip since 1986's epic speed-metal masterpiece Reign In Blood. The band has recorded a half-dozen albums with Rubin, and they remain is as relevant as ever, taking home Grammys for Best Metal Performance in 2007 and 2008. Slayer, by the way, is one of two headliners on this summer's Rockstar Energy Mayhem Tour. The other is . . .
When you look at it that way, Kenny and Marilyn really aren't all that different. Maybe the two of them should duet.