Next week is a historic one for local indie rock fans.
On Sept. 20, Mumford and Sons will play their much-anticipated first concert in Tampa Bay. It's been a long time coming. Local venues and radio stations have tried to book the wildly popular English rockers for years. But after headlining countless festivals around the world, the timing was finally right to bring their sweeping, anthemic, alternative-folk sound to Amalie Arena.
"They always like to do something a little bit different," said Kevin Preast, Amalie's senior vice president of event management. "It was great to see that they were willing to actually come inside."
Mumford and Sons aren't alone. Two days after they play their first Tampa show, another major alt-rock act, Arcade Fire, will follow suit at the USF Sun Dome. The bands are the latest in a growing list of first-time performers over the last couple of years, including Barbra Streisand, Ellie Goulding, Major Lazer, the Strokes and the Shins.
With so many artists getting crossed off Tampa Bay's concert bucket list, that got us wondering: Who's left?
Finding a musician who's never played Tampa Bay is tougher than you'd think.
You have to go back years, sometimes decades — 2005 for Aretha Franklin, 1997 for Beck, 1990 for A Tribe Called Quest, 1988 for Philip Glass, 1985 for Madonna, 1975 for Kraftwerk, 1973 for Stevie Wonder — but eventually almost everyone makes it. Artists who've never played solo have come with old bands, like Jack White (the White Stripes, 2003), Bjork (the Sugarcubes, 1988) and Brian Eno (Roxy Music, 1972).
To find our missing artists, we scoured tour chronologies, Internet archives, microfilm reels and dusty old news clippings. We Google-imaged old tour T-shirts with dates on the back. We polled local industry types and concertgoers. In some cases, we reached out to the artists themselves.
We tossed out legends who died young (John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse) or broke up too soon (the Clash, the Band). We skipped those who are giants overseas but rarely visit America (Cliff Richard, Robbie Williams). We nixed artists who are unlikely to tour again (Joni Mitchell, Yoko Ono), or never toured much in the first place (Kate Bush, Enya).
In the end, we came up with 13(ish) big-name acts who we're pretty sure have yet to play Tampa Bay. Let's hope we can cross them off our bucket list soon.
Iconic singer Freddie Mercury died in 1991, but the band toured with Bad Company's Paul Rodgers in the mid 2000s, and has played with former American Idol star Adam Lambert since 2012. No version of Queen — which still features founding guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor — has ever played closer than the Lakeland Center.
Gabriel has played several Florida shows dating back to his days in Genesis, but only as close as the Lakeland Center. Before Amalie Arena opened in 1996, that was the best arena within driving distance; everyone from U2 to Nirvana played there. We could have had Gabriel in 2003, when he toured North American amphitheaters, but that was just before Tampa's opened.
Not only have the Bee Gees never played Tampa, Barry Gibb has had a home near Miami for decades. It would've been nothing for him to come up here for a quick gig. He did come to St. Pete Beach in 1984 to film the video for One Night for Lovers at the Don CeSar Hotel. That's the last we've seen of him.
Oasis broke up in 2009. Three reasons why we're including them: 1. They were supposed to play the University of South Florida Special Events Center in 1996, but canceled the week before the show; 2. Both Noel and Liam Gallagher have toured elsewhere since the band's breakup; and 3. It seems inevitable the band will get back together at some point. Of all the Britrock bands who've never played Tampa (Pulp, Stone Roses, the Verve), a reunited Oasis would make the biggest splash.
Among the few DJs who have never passed through Tampa — Fatboy Slim, Flying Lotus, Aphex Twin — the most glaring is the world's most celebrated EDM act, French house titans Daft Punk. They're notoriously reluctant to tour, and if they did, it's all but guaranteed they would play Miami instead. So if the robots ever do bring the pyramid back to life, get ready for a road trip.
Late-'90s/early-2000s indie rock remains the genre with the most holdouts — LCD Soundsystem, Belle and Sebastian, Feist, the National, Franz Ferdinand, Fleet Foxes, M83, Eagles of Death Metal, Sufjan Stevens, Air, etc. Of this class, we'll pick Phoenix, the Grammy-winning French group behind 1901 and Lisztomania. Singer Thomas Mars did accompany his wife, director Sofia Coppola, to a spring Opera Tampa gala honoring her great-uncle, Maestro Anton Coppola.
Damon Albarn came to Ybor City with Blur back in 1992. But he's never brought his nearly 20-year-old (!) hip-hop-fusion project Gorillaz. They never really intended to be a live act; they've only performed a few dozen shows in their history. And their tours are difficult to wrangle because of Albarn's sprawling, rotating cast of collaborators. The good news is Gorillaz will make their long-awaited Florida debut at Miami's III Points Festival in October.
Australian punk/poet/prince of darkness Nick Cave has only played Florida once, at Lollapalooza in Miami in '94. That's how it sometimes goes for artists who are feverishly beloved by niche audiences. (P.J. Harvey also comes to mind.) Creatively, Cave is still firing on all cylinders, but he turns 60 this week, so better sooner than later.
Almost every major rapper or R&B singer has played here. One exception seems to be neo-soul heavyweight D'Angelo. Considering he didn't tour in North America for more than a dozen years, there are lots of cities he's never played. He was booked in Orlando in 2015, but canceled. Hard to say if he'll tour again.
This one almost happened. Sia was on the bill for a revived Lilith Fair tour at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in 2010, alongside Sarah McLachlan, Norah Jones, Erykah Badu and more. But the show was canceled two weeks prior due to low ticket sales. Since then, Sia has evolved into a hit songwriter and Grammy-nominated singer capable of headlining arenas like Orlando's Amway Center, which she played in 2016.
While most major Latin artists have been here at least once, they're more likely to play in Orlando or South Florida. Shakira had a Tampa show booked in 2002, but canceled due to a schedule conflict. Since then, she's played at least 15 shows around Florida — with four more booked in January — but has yet to return here.
Consider Ocean a stand-in for the next generation of Tampa Bay holdouts — Solange, Lana Del Rey, Tame Impala, James Bay, Father John Misty, Courtney Barnett and so on. All are so fresh on the scene that they just haven't booked a show here yet. Most should eventually make it ... but Ocean's different. He's like a modern Morrissey, not just for his emotive music and passionate fan base, but for his unfortunate propensity to back out of shows. Even if he does announce a concert in Tampa, we won't believe it until we see him.
Probably the most glaring modern holdout. Adele rarely tours, and has often said she'd like to retire from the road. She booked a show at Orlando's Hard Rock Live in 2011, only to cancel it — and the rest of her tour — due to vocal cord problems. She played two shows in Miami, her first in Florida, in 2016. And that's it for the foreseeable future. She may be at the top of many fans' wish lists, but at this point, it's more likely she'll play the 2021 Super Bowl in Tampa than book a full concert here.
Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.