Let's just get this out of the way: Fallen '80s icons Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger did not make our list of Top 5 September Concerts in Tampa Bay. There has been a firestorm of controversy — an inferno, I say! — regarding the exclusion of their Sept. 17 gig, and yet I stand firm. After all, two-thirds of this retro bill are missing original and essential front men: Journey's Steve Perry and Foreigner's Lou Gramm. Hirsute '80s apologist (and annoying cubemate) Steve Spears counters, "Steve Perry is 62 years old now, and nobody wants to hear a 62-year-old sing Only The Young." Maybe. But I'd rather yearn for the operatic purity of Any Way You Want It than settle for crass imitation. Besides, I have a better concert to go to that night, anyway.
1 Blake Shelton (1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre, Friday) Brad Paisley is the actual headliner at this gig, and opener Sunny Sweeney is your next big crush. But Blake Shelton is the ultimate It Boy right now. Fresh off NBC's surprise smash The Voice, and with a best-selling new album (Red River Blue), the smirky party boy with the rich baritone is living the life in 2011. Being married to Miranda Lambert is probably pretty darn cool, too. (livenation.com)
2 Elvis Costello (Ruth Eckerd Hall, Sept. 17) Declan Patrick MacManus, 57, has never been the warmest of chaps, and yet a new tour with a silly old conceit, "the Spectacular Spinning Songbook," sure seems built for pure crowd thrills. After wandering off into various eclectic soundscapes, Costello is back to straight rockin' with his Imposters — basically his salad-days Attractions minus a part or two. A recent set list was packed with 35 songs (!), including a cover of Prince's Purple Rain. If you ever wanted to see the E.C. we all first fell in love with, don't miss this one. (rutheckerdhall.com)
3 Thompson Square (The Round Up, Sept. 23) When Keifer and Shawna Thompson opened for Jason Aldean this summer, the husband-wife duo was better dressed for an '80s punk gig than a country night. Chummy hit Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not was the toast of Nashville ,and yet there was a sturdy rock spine to their catchy tunes. The Thompsons appeal to everyone, so if you want to see 'em in an intimate joint before they get huge — and I'm sensing hugeness — here's your chance. (theroundup.com)
4 Blink-182 and My Chemical Romance (1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre, Sept. 24) In a few weeks, the snotty brats in blink-182 will release their first studio album in eight long years, a comeback album with a comeback tour to support it. That's a curious reality for a perpetually immature band that longed to moon the world during its mid-'90s heyday. It'll be interesting to see if Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker and Tom DeLonge can still summon (or even want to) their spitballing youths with that same gusto. (livenation.com)
5 Miranda Lambert (Tropicana Field, Sept. 24) With two LPs out this fall — her fourth solo record, plus a throwback sassfest with supergroup Pistol Annies — Miranda Lambert could make a run at the pop universe just like her peer Taylor Swift. The only problem is that Ran would rather be a crossbow-wielding wild child than a commercial princess, which might affect any shot at world domination. Not that she'd want that, of course: She has looks, talent, peace of mind. Plus being married to Blake Shelton is probably pretty darn cool, too. (raysbaseball.com)
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at tampabay.com/blogs/poplife.