Ah yes, February, le mois d'amour, 29 days of kissing, hugging, sobbing, failed expectations and last-minute Valentine's Day gifts from CVS. ("But baby, we're going to drink this 12-pack of Yoo-Hoo together.") In keeping with the theme of love, love, love, the latest installment of Top Shows in Tampa Bay is dedicated to music of the heart and heartbroken: Diana Ross' Stop! In the Name of Love, Kelly Clarkson's Since U Been Gone, Radiohead's I Might Be Wrong. Feel free to sing along — or quietly sob in a corner.
The Civil Wars (The Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Thursday) BFFs with Taylor Swift, this y'alternative boy-girl duo is primed for Grammy gold on Feb. 12 when their first full-length LP, the Southern Gothic Barton Hollow, competes for best folk album. Joy Williams and John Paul White joined creative forces in Nashville a few years ago, and together they illuminate the inner-workings of a relationship with a pained, poetic magnifying glass. If you want a dreamy taste of their bittersweet style, seek out the video for Poison & Wine on YouTube. (strazcenter.org)
Richard Thompson (Tampa Theatre, Friday) With ex-wife Linda Thompson, Fairport Convention's Richard Thompson made what many consider the most honest breakup album of all time, 1982's Shoot Out the Lights. But the Brit's solo shows are far from gloomy affairs: Thompson is a vastly underrated guitarist, a ferocious fingerpicker willing to please a crowd with robust cuts I Feel So Good, Turning of the Tide and doozy ballad 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. (tampatheatre.org)
Kelly Clarkson (Ruth Eckerd Hall, Feb. 21) The best thing to happen to American Idol was having Kelly Clarkson as its inaugural champ. Would the Fox phenomenon still be on the air without her legitimate talent? After all, AI hasn't had a singer as good as KC since. (No offense, Carrie.) As a recording artist, the 29-year-old Clarkson has been victim to soggy song material, but her soul-packed holler sells even the blahest of tunes (see 2011 album Stronger). If you're on the fence, don't be: She's great live. (rutheckerdhall.com)
Diana Ross (Mahaffey Theater, Feb. 24) The Divacious One is 67 now, but rest assured that the former Supreme takes absolutely no guff from Father Time. Miss R is tireless, and if her 2010 show at Ruth Eckerd Hall was any indication, you'll get 20-plus hits (Motown, disco, Ease on Down the Road), big hair and eye-popping wardrobe changes, including a green number that looks like Kermit the Frog caught in a wood chipper. (themahaffey.com)
Radiohead (Tampa Bay Times Forum, Feb. 29) Touring behind 2011's The King of Limbs, a Radiohead album for folks who were tired of the band sounding like R2-D2 falling down a marble staircase, Thom Yorke and his avant-garde buddies will focus mainly on new stuff at this show. But that's okay! The Brit brainiacs have rediscovered the joy of unburied melodies, especially on the gorgeous Codex, the best song from Limbs. Will you get Creep or Karma Police or Fake Plastic Trees? Probably not. Will you get a trippy, mind-blowing show? Bet on it, cool kids. (tampabaytimesforum.com)
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.