Six nights, eight shows, eight sparring writers. When we saw the are-you-kidding-me concert lineup for the next week, we weren't sure whom to cover. Jimmy Buffett or REO Speedwagon? Nickelback or 311? James Taylor or Ray LaMontagne? Katy Perry or Mons Venus? And if we sent readers to tonight's George Clinton funkdown, would they even live to see the weekend? Instead, we decided to throw ourselves an ol'-fashioned grudge match, with eight different writers trumpeting eight different acts. Some played dirty (Steve Spears has promised to keep on hating Steve Persall), while others admitted dirty lil' secrets (does Jay Cridlin have a Nickelback tattoo? Hmmm, you be the judge). One thing's for sure: Tampa Bay is going to sound really good for the next week. Have at it, kids!
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic
When a man wearing nothing but a festive diaper is the sole voice of reason at a concert, you know you're at an epic show: A few years back, at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., I reviewed groove pioneer George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, a sprawling orgy of bass-slapping, rump-rolling, sanity-eschewing legends freshly descended from the Mothership.
I had heard rumors of lengthy P-Funk shows, but the truth was even longer. Clinton, whose sky-high 'do looked like a tornado twisting through a Crayola factory, didn't appear until 30 minutes into the gig — but that's okay, because all 157 members of his band were still on the opening song.
Atomic Dog, One Nation Under a Groove, Flash Light: All the funk classics were stretched to test your hips. But I'm only slightly exaggerating when I say that the encore, Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker), lasted 27 1/2 hours. The club owners had to hit the house lights, then the stage juice — and Clinton still kept funking around! And the crowd kept funking right back!
Finally, Yoda-esque guitarist Starchild, the dude in the diaper, had to drag Clinton away. And lemme tell you, Clinton, then in his early 60s, was not happy about being reprimanded by a lil' dude in Huggies.
In related news: If you're attending Clinton and P-Funk's show at Jannus Landing, prepare to pay your babysitter $500. Gotta have that funk!
Details: George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, 7 p.m. at Jannus Landing, 16 Second St. N, St. Petersburg. $25. (727) 896-2276.
Sean Daly, Times pop music critic
REO Speedwagon with Night Ranger
Seems like only yesterday you pulled on those navy blue corduroy pants, slipped that thick-toothed comb into the back pocket and scrounged around in the hamper until you found that glorious REO Speedwagon concert jersey. That's right. Real music fans wear jerseys, not Hawaiian muumuus and stuffed-parrot hats.
You heard me, Buffett fans. While your graying idol stumbles through his decaying standbys to a crowd of booze-soaked zombies at the Ford Amp, Kevin Cronin and friends will blaze through anthems like Riding the Storm Out, Roll With the Changes, Tough Guys and the gold standard in power ballads, Keep On Loving You.
But wait! A ticket to see REO this time around also means you get Night Ranger as the opening act. Sentimental Street, (You Can Still) Rock in America. Oh, and a little classic we call Sister Christian. Can your aging ticker stand a night like this? Bring the blood pressure meds just in case, because all emergency personnel will be at the Buffett show to clean up the mess after Margaritaville.
Details: REO Speedwagon with Night Ranger, 7:30 p.m. at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. $49.75, $85. (727) 791-7400.
Steve Spears, Times staff writer
I could chatter like a Tallahassee lobbyist about why Jimmy Buffett wins a show-vs.-show matchup with REO Speedwagon fins down. But I'll defer to Parrot Head Nation, which replied to my recent blog post on the throwdown; their ire immediately zoomed through the Coconut Telegraph, the official e-grapevine for all things Buffett. You can read the entire shout-down at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.
"I'm here to say that I CAN fight this feeling," messaged "Cindy LouWho," turning around one of REO Speedwagon's hits. Hearty-partying Parrot Heads from Lutz to Las Vegas left more than 100 messages (plus a couple dozen more on Spears' pro-REO post at blogs.tampabay.com/80s). Their testimonies paint a tropical picture of timeless songs, life-changing concerts and Bacchanalian worship of Buffett's Margaritaville persona and charitable support of his eco-causes.
Parrot Heads walk it like they talk it, although sometimes on wobbly sea legs, wearing coconut shell bikini tops and peering through beer goggles. Pit that rowdy, revival spirit against an REO Speedwagon concert and, as Thomas "Sky King" Schultz typed: "It's like comparing a big, ole juicy cheeseburger in paradise to a Spam sandwich in Buffalo during the dead of winter."
Details: Jimmy Buffett, 7 p.m. at Ford Amphitheatre, Interstate 4 at U.S. 301 N, Tampa. SOLD OUT. (813) 740-2446.
Steve Persall, Times film critic
Somewhere along the line, the phrase "I like Nickelback" became code for "I'm a tool." This is probably an unfair generalization; we've never actually heard anyone utter the words "I like Nickelback."
Critics blame the chart-topping Canadian grungers for the crunchy monotony of modern rock radio, the prominence of bands like Finger Eleven and Hinder, and the death of intelligent music in general. But here's the deal: (1) Creed put music into an intellectual coma long before Nickelback scored its first hit, and (2) Nickelback really isn't that bad.
Chad Kroeger's scorched-earth groan is the perfect delivery vehicle for Big Dumb Songs about love, lust and Labatt's — which happen to be the three leading reasons any teenage male picks up a guitar in the first place. Breakout single How You Remind Me was nominated for a Record of the Year Grammy in 2003, and the band has produced some of the catchiest hard rock songs of the past decade.
Listen to Nickelback's six albums and you're bound to come away with at least one track you dig. If, after that, you still think Nickelback is lame, well, there's nothing else we can do. The 27 million of us who own Nickelback albums will just have to go on rocking without you.
Details: Nickelback, with Seether and Saving Abel, 7 p.m. at the Ford Amphitheatre, Interstate 4 at U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $29.50-$75; four-packs available for $22.25 per ticket. (813) 740-2446, livenation.com.
Jay Cridlin, Times staff writer
They're a musical Turducken: a rock-reggae-rap hybrid act from Omaha, Neb., who wanted nothing more than to combine the genres they love. For show-goers, 311 yields three times the gravy and a chance to indulge in a little cockeyed optimism — something Beardy (Ray LaMontagne) and Sweet Lips (Perry) just won't provide.
Funky slap bass, chunky riffs and mellow grooves have won the good-vibin' multitaskers a cultlike following. Show staples include a Blue Man Group-ish full band drum solo (Applied Science), as well as a cell-phone-light-worthy performance of Amber. They'll also unveil songs from upcoming Uplifter, produced by Bob Rock (of Metallica "black album" fame).
Odds are good you'll be buddy-buddy with the people sitting around you by night's end. Go Sunday and you'll receive this bonus: Food and beverages are allowed inside, unlike in years past.
Details: 311 with Outlaw Nation, Passafire, 8:30 p.m. at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. $46. (727) 791-7400.
Carole Giambalvo, Times correspondent
Forget for a moment the bald head. His and your husband's.
Never mind that James Taylor just turned 61, and that you might be a few years older. He rocked you through your first breakup with Fire and Rain. And sealed that perfect summer with that perfect guy: How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). What a drag when he broke up with Carly Simon. What duo would ever have as much sultry fun with Mockingbird?
Sweet Baby James is forever the guy in blue jeans and work shirt with the chestnut brown hair, parted in the middle, skirting the shoulders. The voice hasn't changed. Dripping honey, it's still as sweet as ever.
We love him for the '70s oldies but the new stuff is pretty hot, too. Hourglass, October Road and the just-released Covers affirm his place on the high shrine of singer-songwriters.
He's a steamroller, baby. Hair or not.
Details: James Taylor, 8 p.m. at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. SOLD OUT. (727) 791-7400.
Janet K. Keeler, Times lifestyles editor
Reasons to see Katy Perry in concert instead of these other schmoes.
1. She kissed a girl and she liked it. We could all stand to be more open-minded and inclusive of lifestyles, couldn't we? Feel the love, America!
2. She will likely wear a sequined sailor suit. Or a satin banana shorty jumper. Or a watermelon bra. Or some hot pink leggings woven from the synthetic hair of a Russ Troll figurine. And gosh darnit, she'll pull it off.
3. She's the daughter of pastors, so maybe you'll take away some spiritual renewal! Or a hangover. Either is fun.
4. It's an excuse to lacquer yourself in body glitter and show off your signature dance move. Because everyone needs to feel like a disco ball sometimes.
5. Lily Allen is unavailable.
Details: Katy Perry, 7 p.m. at Jannus Landing, 16 Second St. N, St. Petersburg. SOLD OUT. (727) 896-1244.
Stephanie Hayes, Times staff writer
Close your eyes and Ray LaMontagne has the throaty, croony voice of a seasoned soul singer. But you won't want to keep them closed for his show at the Tampa Theatre, because then you'd miss the gargoyles and excess of the venue's creepy Florida Mediterranean architecture. Still, it's incongruous, all that grizzled life experience pouring out of this hirsute-yet-boyish 35-year-old from Maine.
Touring with a full band in support of his recently released third album, Gossip in the Grain, LaMontagne has stretched out a bit from the intensely personal singer-songwriter vibe of his previous work, Trouble and Till the Sun Turns Black. His new songs are still lyrically driven (his ode to White Stripes drummer Meg White is a hoot), but this new effort is part railroad blues, a little backwoods country and a whole lot of fun.
While LaMontagne seldom chats a crowd up, his music is old-school storytelling, from the jangly banjo-driven Hey Me, Hey Mama to hard-knocks ballads like Jolene.
Details: Ray LaMontagne, 8 p.m. at Tampa Theatre, 711 N Franklin St., Tampa. $28-$38. (813) 274-8981.
Laura Reiley, Times food critic