URBAN RENEWAL: Keith Urban
I'll confess: Keith Urban had me worried. John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16, released last summer as the first single from his long-in-the-works album Ripcord, was way too glib and goofy for a man who does pedal-to-the-metal country as well as anyone. Color me pleasantly surprised, then, that Ripcord's actually decent. Sure, Urban goes out on a stylistic limb or two, heartily embracing synth-pop and dance rock on tracks like Wasted Time and Sun Don't Let Me Down, featuring Florida's own Pitbull. But these tracks hold Ripcord together with an inspired, focused energy that just wasn't there with John Cougar. Now I'm amped for his new tour, which hits Tampa on Friday. Some of that has to do with his openers — soulful stud Brett Eldredge and new-school ingenue Maren Morris, whose new album Hero I've had on repeat — but I also want to hear what Urban's up to these days. Modern Nashville is pushing boundaries left and right in 2016, and Urban's a big part of that. No need to worry about him anymore. 7:30 p.m. Friday, MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $25 and up. (813) 740-2446. livenation.com.
ONE-MAN BAND: Chris Cornell
Not long ago, Jimmy Page came to see Chris Cornell in concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. "It was a little intimidating," Cornell confessed in a recent phone interview.
Really? I mean, sure, it's Jimmy Page, but this is Chris Cornell we're talking about, a man blessed with one of the all-time-great rock wails. As the frontman of Soundgarden and Audioslave and a renowned solo artist in his own right, he can sing anything for anyone he chooses.
For the last few years, he's been doing just that on his engaging solo acoustic tours, one of which hits Ruth Eckerd Hall Thursday. He'll mix in hits from all of those projects plus several covers, like his slow-burning takes on Michael Jackson's Billie Jean or Prince's Nothing Compares 2 U.
Cornell's stylistic diversity and willingness to attempt any cover has made him a premiere free agent for rock bands looking for an A-list singer. So you have to wonder: If Page called him up and said he felt like hitting the road with John Paul Jones, would Cornell entertain the offer?
"He never did that," he said, "but if he did, yeah, I would have to entertain it."
Start the petition Thursday!
Cornell performs at 8 p.m. Thursday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. $54.75 and up. (727) 791-7400. rutheckerdhall.com.
SUMMER HEAT: Anthony Hamilton and Fantasia
Talk about a fiery way to jolt the USF Sun Dome out of its summer slumber. Grammy winners Anthony Hamilton and Fantasia (nee Barrino) are gearing up for a co-headlining tour that'll serve up enough soul to last you to Labor Day, and it'll hit the Sun Dome, 4202 E Fowler Ave., at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Hamilton's gospel-flavored new album What I'm Feelin' is brimming with exciting, impassioned musicality, a hallmark of his since his early 2000s Charlene days. Fantasia, meanwhile, will release her fifth album, The Definition Of ..., later this summer, and its first singles — the sleek, poppy No Time for It and noirish, retro-soul slow-burner Sleeping With the One I Love, are pretty fantastic. Tickets are $49.50 and up, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a better weeknight date night. (813) 974-3004. sundomearena.com.
PREPARE TO WEEP: The Weepies
Maybe you heard the Weepies' All That I Want in a touching holiday ad for J.C. Penney or Stars in one for Old Navy. Maybe you've heard their songs on shows like Grey's Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother or Sex and the City. Or maybe you've never heard the Weepies at all, in which case you really need to get to Ruth Eckerd Hall at 8 p.m. Saturday. Husband and wife Steve Tannen and Deb Talan write twee folk-pop songs so gentle and affecting they've spawned a cult of Weepies lovers worldwide. Open your heart to songs like World Spins Madly On, Gotta Have You and Can't Go Back Now and you won't regret it. The Weepies rarely tour — they have young kids, and a few years ago Talan battled and beat breast cancer — so enjoy this sold-out show at Ruth Eckerd's intimate Murray Studio Theatre, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. rutheckerdhall.com.
ELECTRIC SLIDE: A Tribute to Buster Cooper
St. Pete lost a good one in Buster Cooper, the globe-trotting trombonist who died May 13 at age 87. Cooper traveled the word performing with artists like Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker and Ella Fitzgerald, before returning to his hometown in the '90s, where he became a local favorite on Friday nights at downtown's Garden restaurant. The jazz community has celebrated Cooper since his death, and will reconvene from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday for "A Tribute to Buster Cooper" at the Palladium, 525 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Former WUSF host and Tampa Jazz Club president Bob Seymour will host the festivities, including jam sessions for any musician interested in participating. The show is free, but seating is first come, first served. (727) 822-3590.