I've seen hundreds of live shows during my career, from Bruce Springsteen at the New Orleans Jazz Festival (muddy, emotional) to Coldplay in the California desert (I was stuck behind a babbling Melissa Rivers, who looked like a cyborg).
There aren't many big acts I haven't caught, home or away. But just like you, I have a Concert Wish List: AC/DC, Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Ice Cube, Neil Young, just to name a few. It causes me genuine unrest — guilt, even — that I haven't seen these people.
That said, 2008 in Tampa Bay has been a faboo year for my Wish List. For the first time ever, I rocked out to Van Halen and Pearl Jam. I air-guitared to Mark Knopfler. I even boogied to George Michael. The rest of the year will take care of some other names, too: Miranda Lambert, who just might be the most important country singer in decades; Alanis Morissette, with whom I fell deeply in love after we cursed at each other earlier this year; and the Black Crowes, whose show at Ruth Eckerd Hall could be one for the ages.
Oh, and if Neil Diamond is still on your Wish List, don't miss him at the St. Pete Times Forum on Oct. 24. I recommend him every year, so he's not listed here. But believe me, the Jazz Singer is a wild time.
Okay, boys and girls, grab your calendars and your checklists.
Here we go . . . 10 must-sees.
Miranda Lambert, Ford Amphitheatre, Friday Everyone's favorite crossbow-totin', whiskey-shootin' crazy ex-girlfriend opens for Kenny Chesney (show details, bottom right). But there's no question who's the more captivating act: From the pyro fantasy Kerosene to the man-slaughtering Gunpowder & Lead, Lambert has shown true grit underneath those cheerleader looks.
Jonas Brothers, Ford Amphitheatre, Sept. 4 Why go to the JoBros, the '00s version of Hanson? Because you secretly want to hear 20,000 tween girls screaming at once. Because you want to find out why your neighbor's kid is spray-painting "I Heart Nick" on your sidewalk. Because for two hours, you want to know what it's like to be in the middle of the pop culture universe. That's why.
Rebekah Pulley & the Reluctant Prophets, Skipper's Smokehouse, Sept. 5 The local singer-songwriter has one of those voices that sears into your brain and finds emotional trigger points you never knew existed (or at least were hiding). She's pretty intense, but she's also pretty good. Go get her new album, Back to Boogaloo, and have her sign it at the show.
Black Kids, the Crowbar, Sept. 21 These Jacksonville newbies are already huge in London, fusing American sass with U.K. postpunk, which sounds a little like Howard Jones robbing a gas station. You'll love 'em or hate 'em. Either way, you'll just have to dance, dance, dance.
Counting Crows, Ford Amphitheatre, Oct. 3 Okay, this is a tricky one. The Crows share a bill with Maroon 5, who find themselves on my ominous Shows to Beware list (see right). But even an abbreviated Crows set is worth the hassle. History will remember frontman Adam Duritz as (1) having really bad hair and (2) being one of the greatest pop songwriters of his generation.
Mary J. Blige, Ford Amphitheatre, Oct. 11 So a long time ago, I reviewed a Mary J. show in the nation's capital. I was second row, center. At the night's finale, the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul approached the front of the stage, leaned down and slyly thanked everyone — even the critics — for attending. Awkward, very awkward. And yet, I love her.
Alanis Morissette, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Oct. 16 I've gushed a lot about Alanis. Enough so that I'm expecting a legal notice from her management any day. And yet I persist: The lanky Canadian is a perilously introspective yelper not afraid to bleed all over the stage. Her new album, Flavors of Entanglement, wasn't great. But to see her at this cozy venue will be sublime. Call me, Lanie!
Travis Tritt, Mahaffey Theater, Oct. 24 If Nashville were at all smart or fair or level-headed, the truth-telling Tritt would be heralded with the same accolades slapped on Willie and the outlaws. But Tritt got hot (and cold) during Music Row's crossover takeover, leaving him on the outside looking in. The man can still bring the growl, so don't miss him at this cool venue.
The Black Crowes, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Nov. 10 Oh my, this is gonna be a madhouse. The Black Crowes at Ruth Eckerd? Something's gotta give, right? The Southern-rockin' Robinson boys are touring behind their best album in years, Warpaint, which features the slide-dripped majesty of hit Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution. This one should be a hoot and a holler.
Carrie Underwood, St. Pete Times Forum, Dec. 12 I know what you're thinking: Daly is only into this one for the gams. Not true, not true. Sure, Underwood is mildly attractive in the right light. And her albums are kinda sexy. But I'm more interested in her as a savvy covers artist, from George Michael's Praying for Time to the Pretenders I'll Stand by You. Word is, she busts out the Guns N' Roses, too.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/ popmusic
5 SHOWS TO BEWARE
John Mayer, Ford Amphitheatre, Saturday I was caught up in a heated John Mayer crossfire the other day. A dude thought he was bogus; a dudette thought he was brilliant. That pretty much says it all right there.
Maroon 5, Ford Amphitheatre, Oct. 3 Maroon 5, led by glam-poppy white-boy funkster Adam Levine, reminds me of Jamiroquai. Remember them? Exactly.
Buckethead, Garage Bar, Oct. 23 When I think of the dissolution of Guns N' Roses, I think of this creepy guitarist. Maybe that's not fair. But in my eyes, he's like Yoko Ono . . . with, you know, a KFC bucket on her head.
New Kids on the Block, St. Pete Times Forum, Nov. 2 There's something life-affirming about all those tweens screaming for joy. There's something eerie about 32-year-old divorcees doing the same thing.
Celine Dion, St. Pete Times Forum, Jan. 28 I'll be at this one. One, it's my job. And two, I just can't resist. But let it be known Celine's patented vocal runs have ruined a generation of young singers. Plus tickets for the second level are running at $150.