SNAKE CHARMER: Alice Cooper
Reptiles in Florida are good for a lot of things — entertaining tourists, snapping up critters, viral news stories, etc. We can also thank them for Alice Cooper's penchant for snakes.
"We were doing a show in Florida, and some girl backstage had about a 2-foot boa constrictor on her arm," Cooper reminisced in a recent phone interview. "She was talking to somebody, and I walked up, and it scared me to death. And then I thought: Wait a minute. If that's a 2-foot boa constrictor, what would a 15-foot one look like on stage? Immediately, I loved the idea of that."
Thus was born an iconic part of Cooper's shock rock stage show. That sense of serpentine showmanship has worked wonders for the 68-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, He may not have a snake on his shoulders when he hits Ruth Eckerd Hall on Saturday, but he'll bring nearly 50 years of carnival-barking experience, along with a stable of iconic hits like I'm Eighteen, School's Out, Poison and Elected. And that still works wonders, even for his younger fans.
"I think people are shocked to see a classic rocker like me with a band this tight and the energy level of this show," he said. "People are shocked that Alice Cooper, being 68, will do 25 songs without letting up. The energy behind this tour even surprises me. After the show, I walk off stage feeling great. I should be totally exhausted, but I'm not."
8 p.m. Saturday, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. $48.75 and up. (727) 791-7400. rutheckerdhall.com.
For more with Alice Cooper, click here.
FAMILIAR FACES: Brad Paisley, Def Leppard
It's been a busy summer at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, with some concerts by artists who have rarely, if ever, performed there: Weezer, G-Eazy, Brand New, Modest Mouse, Chris Stapleton, Snoop Dogg.
And then there are old reliables like country star Brad Paisley and '80s rockers Def Leppard. Paisley has played the Amp every year since at least 2005, and other venues around town for years before then. Def Leppard has played Tampa eight times since 2005, including six at the shed. They're both back in town in the next week, a double dose of musical comfort food for the dog days of summer.
With both acts, the template is set in stone: Guitars, guitars and more guitars, all backing hit after hit. Do we even need to list them all? For Paisley: Alcohol, Ticks, Online, Celebrity. For Def Leppard: Armageddon It, Photograph, Animal, Pour Some Sugar on Me. At least Def Leppard released a new album last year, meaning fans might hear one or two new songs. Otherwise, the biggest changes are likely to be the openers (for Paisley, Tyler Farr and Maddie and Tae; for Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon and Tesla).
But comfort and familiarity are powerful emotions. That's the real reason thousands of fans will flood the Amp to see Paisley and Def Leppard. You know exactly what you're going to get, and can sing along to every word.
Paisley performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday. $15 and up. Def Leppard performs at 7 p.m. Monday. $18 and up. 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. (813) 740-2446. livenation.com.
RAY DATE: Ray LaMontagne
A voice as pained and textured as Ray LaMontagne's needs no bells and whistles to make each concert feel special. But it's hard to resist the gimmick of his tour in support of his sixth studio album Ouroboros. After a solo set of songs like Trouble and Jolene, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter is joined by a backing band comprising four-fifths of My Morning Jacket: guitarist Carl Broemel, drummer Patrick Hallahan, bassist Tom Blankenship and keyboardist Bo Koster. Not bad, considering it's been a while since MMJ has come to town. So while this show is billed as "An Evening With Ray LaMontagne," it's really so much more. 8 p.m. Friday at Ruth Eckerd Hall. $43 and up. (727) 791-7400. rutheckerdhall.com.
SUMMER BLOWOUT: Slightly Stoopid and SOJA
With summer winding down, it's time for one last beachy fling by the water. Enter Slightly Stoopid, above, and SOJA, two of America's most successful post-Sublime reggae-rock outfits, who perform at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg on Sunday. They've chosen divergent paths to mainstream success — Slightly Stoopid is more stoner-friendly, SOJA more socially conscious — but it's definitely worked, as both acts have sold out Jannus Live multiple times over. The move to merge and play a huge outdoor park makes perfect sense, especially as September looms on the horizon. Fortunate Youth also performs when gates open at 4:30 p.m. $37.50 and up. livenation.com.