RUNNING FULL THROTTLE: Run the Jewels
Run the Jewels leaked their much-anticipated Run the Jewels 3 at midnight Christmas morning, weeks ahead of its planned Jan. 13 release date. Great gift for fans, but there was one problem: It happened so quickly, so late in the year, that the duo largely missed out on consideration for year-end best-of lists.
So let's describe RTJ3 this way: It's 2017's best rap album of 2016. It is, like everything Killer Mike and El-P do, a riotous blast of rap with a capital R, rap that honors the genre's braggadocious roots while shoehorning in all kinds of twisty pan-cultural influences. It's a stampede through a comic-book horrorcore fantasy in which invincible heroes Mike and El are "the last two pirates alive," slicing through their foes like throwing stars.
"We are the no-gooders, do-gooders, known to the dancers and dealers and doers of dust," Mike bellows on Legend Has It, one of an endless string of gleeful, boastful one-liners. "Old-timers speak of us hushed and clutch their rosaries / I lust after greatness, I'm aiming right at its ovaries," El snarls on Oh Mama. Every song balances an incredible line of violent self-mythology and winking humor, and it's all so unforgettably quotable. When they rap about headlining Madison Square Garden on the riotous Call Ticketron, it sounds less like a fantasy and more like a idea that needs to come to pass.
Atop beats that blend trap, psychedelic rock and rolling southern bass, the duo squeezes in some of their trademark activism between bars of fictional gang-banging. Mike, the pair's more politically outspoken half, is as forceful as ever about topics like gentrification and, on the standout Talk to Me, police brutality: "Militant Michael might go psycho . . . My job is to fight for survival / in spite of all these #AllLivesMatter-a-- white folk."
Doesn't matter when they released it — 2016, 2017, whenever — RTJ3 was always destined to be one of the year's best. And so will their concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Jannus Live, 200 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg. The Gaslamp Killer, Spark Master Tape and Cuz open. $25 and up. (727) 565-0550. jannuslive.com.
BAND TRIBUTE: The Last Waltz 40 Tour
Short of luring Robbie Robertson out of retirement, this is the best way to relive the Band's music in 2017. To mark the 40th (give or take) anniversary of the iconic Americana act's final concert, immortalized in the film The Last Waltz, an all-star supergroup is hitting the road to reprise their acclaimed performance at last year's Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Michael McDonald, Jamey Johnson, Gov't Mule guitarist Warren Haynes, megaproducer Don Was, drummer Terence Higgins, keyboardist John Medeski, do-everything N'awlins cat Ivan Neville and bluesman Bob Margolin (an actual Last Waltz veteran) will recreate much of The Last Waltz at 8 p.m. Monday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. Take a load off, Fanny, because just like the Band themselves, this is one group of artists you'll never see gathered live again. $53.25 and up. (727) 791-7400. rutheckerdhall.com.
GOODBYE, GAMBLER: Kenny Rogers
For a while now, Kenny Rogers has been threatening to retire from the road. With only a handful of gigs left in his 2017 datebook, it seems he might really be ready to fold 'em and walk away. Luckily, one of those concerts is Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater (and late risers, take note — it starts at 1 p.m.). It's hard to imagine this is really the last time Rogers will bring hits like Lady, Coward of the County and Islands in the Stream through Tampa Bay, but given all the legends we've lost lately, you might not want to risk your last chance to see the Gambler live. Drop in to see what condition Kenny's condition is in, and bid him a fond farewell. $60 and up. (727) 791-7400. rutheckerdhall.com.
EAGLE FLYING SOLO: Don Henley
One of the many sad things about Glenn Frey's death last January was that Don Henley, left, seemed to regret losing the chance to tour with the Eagles again. In interviews, Henley entertained the idea of getting the band back together with Frey's son Deacon or even Jackson Browne, but nothing has happened yet. So instead, he's hitting the road solo for a career-spanning tour that features hits from the Eagles (Life in the Fast Lane, Hotel California), his solo catalog (Dirty Laundry, The Boys of Summer) and his new country album Cass County (That Old Flame). His show at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Ruth Eckerd Hall will be memorable for those who thought to snap up tickets early because this one sold out well in advance. JD & the Straight Shot open. (727) 791-7400. rutheckerdhall.com.