LET'S GROOVE: Chicago and Earth, Wind and Fire
Verdine White said the Earth, Wind and Fire family is "hanging tough" since the February death of his brother and band co-founder Maurice White.
"Barack Obama reached out," he said. "Lenny Kravitz reached out. Pharrell. It wasn't that it was a surprise; it's just a lot of great support from everybody."
He also heard from his pals in the band Chicago, with whom they're now out on the road for their fifth co-headlining tour since 2004.
"I consider them very dear and close friends," said Chicago co-founder and keyboardist Robert Lamm, shown right, "because each and every one of them are wonderful musicians, and good guys."
It's surprising it took so long for Chicago and Earth, Wind and Fire to hook up. Horn-powered powerhouses from the city of Chicago, they've left an indelible impact on pop and party music over the past 50 years. Earth, Wind and Fire was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and in two weeks, after decades of fan lobbying, Chicago will finally join them.
"Some musicians say it's not about the awards, and that's true," White said. "but when your fellow colleagues honor you, it's a big deal. And with Chicago, it's well deserved."
At Saturday's co-headlining show in Tampa, both bands will play a couple of songs together, then do individual headlining sets, then reunite at the end for an all-star finale. White said he loves jamming out on Chicago's 25 or 6 to 4. Lamm said White and singer Philip Bailey have more stage presence than both formidable horn sections put together.
"They fight for attention when Verdine is on stage, and Philip is singing, soaring with his high notes," he said.
"Oh man," White said, "you gotta hear that thing."
The show kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater, 4802 U.S. 301 N. $18.95 and up. (813) 740-2446. livenation.com.
For more of our interview with Earth, Wind and Fire's Verdine White and Chicago's Robert Lamm, see tampabay.com/soundcheck.
OPEN YOUR EYES: Third Eye Blind
Third Eye Blind fans who bought tickets to December's Mix 100.7 Mistletoe Show in Clearwater didn't exactly get their money's worth.
The vastly underrated '90s rockers played all of six songs — including, fair enough, huge hits Semi-Charmed Life, Jumper and Never Let You Go — before yielding the stage to Rob Thomas, prompting cries from diehard fans for another Tampa Bay tour stop in 2016.
They'll get it on Sunday at Busch Gardens' Food and Wine Festival, where Third Eye Blind will deliver more new songs from 2015's Dopamine and, hopefully, plenty of old material, too — maybe Motorcycle Drive By from 1997's Third Eye Blind, Crystal Baller from 2003's Out of the Vein or Bonfire from 2009's Ursa Major.
Non-fans have every right to be skeptical about Third Eye Blind's ability to wow crowds in 2016. Many radio rock bands of their vintage haven't aged well; a lot have simply broken up. But their most devoted fans won't hear it. Stephan Jenkins always could craft a memorable guitar-rock song as well as any songwriter of his generation (just try and pretend you don't still know all the lyrics to Semi-Charmed Life).
They may be playing a theme-park food festival in Tampa, but they're also playing Bonnaroo in June — a testament to the quality and nostalgic punch of their music. Time will be kind to Third Eye Blind, just you wait and see.
Third Eye Blind isn't the only concert happening this weekend at Busch Gardens. There's also Chino y Nacho, a Latin pop duo who are superstars in their native Venezuela, on Saturday. Both concerts start at 6 p.m. in Gwazi Park, and are included with park admission. buschgardens.com.
BATTER UP: The Baseball Project
R.E.M. may be long gone, but at least we still have the Baseball Project. An indie-rock supergroup consisting of R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, the Minus 5's Scott McCaughey, the Dream Syndicate's Steve Wynn and drummer Linda Pitmon, the Baseball Project is more of a lighthearted lark than a globe-conquering rock band. Instead of singing about the end of the world as we know it, they sing about America's pastime, filling several albums with ditties about stars from Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson to Harvey Haddix and Fernando Valenzuela. They play for fun in much smaller venues than Mills was used to with R.E.M. — including Crowbar, 1812 N 17th St. in Ybor City, at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. They'll be hitting some spring training during their tour, so keep an eye out at Yankees, Blue Jays or Phillies games. $15-$18. ticketfly.com.