Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Music & Shows

SoundCheck: M. Ward, R. Kelly among top live music picks

M. Ward

With Mount Moriah

Details: Tonight at 7:30. State Theatre, 687 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. $20 and up. (727) 895-3045.

Despite being almost 3 years old, M. Ward's last solo LP has aged extremely well. A Wasteland Companion is a dusty, time-bending album of cuts inspired by the sounds and thoughts of road-worn, weary troubadours from days gone by. It stands as Ward's most commercially viable solo material, but it's just a small piece of a one-of-a-kind discography that has found the Oregon master songsmith weaving his love of jazz, country and gospel into a new breed of mellow, sonically lush Americana. Ward cut his teeth playing with '90s psych-folk band Rodriguez and his most current collaborations (Monsters of Folk with members of My Morning Jacket and Bright Eyes, She & Him with indie darling Zooey Deschanel) have cemented Ward's status as one of the most important and talented minds in American music today. Don't be surprised if this long-overdue tour date ends up being the best show of the year.

R. Kelly

With Tamar Braxton

Details: Tonight at 8. Tampa Bay Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $45-$115. (813) 301-2500.

There are many versions of R. Kelly we imagine encountering at this arena gig. While timeless hits like I Believe I Can Fly are anthemic and grand enough to fill a 20,000-capacity room, the germaphobe in us definitely fears the prospect of being front row and meeting the same R. Kelly parodied by Dave Chappelle's "Tron Carter" character in the early 2000s (Google it; it's not pretty). In all fairness, Kelly, 47, has cleaned up his life since then, all while managing to lather his latest LP, Black Panties, with the kind of absurdly raunchy and party-all-night attitude that made songs like Ignition (Remix), Feelin' On Yo' Booty, Bump n' Grind, and Down Low (Nobody Has To Know) truly indispensable chapters of modern R&B. Tamar Braxton — Toni's baby sister — does open the show, if you really need another reason to show for this one.

Sam Hunt

Details: Friday 7 p.m. Dallas Bull, 3322 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $10. (813) 987-2855.

Sam Hunt doesn't sell out amphitheaters and arenas like some other pop country studs, but if you read closely (and still buy music in physical form), you will find the 29-year-old former football player credited as co-writer in the liner notes of albums by Keith Urban, Billy Currington and even Kenny Chesney. Hunt and his own single, Raised On It, are as good as anything else you'll hear on the radio, and while his pen is obviously his greatest weapon, other cuts like House Party and Speakers will turn skeptics into fans at this show.

Feral Babies

With Radarmen, Station Cases, Awkward Age

Details: Saturday 9 p.m. New World Brewery, 1313 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. $7. (813) 248-4969.

The members of beloved — and relatively short-lived — Tampa hardcore punk outfit Feral Babies have all been part of other great bands, so a breakup is nothing new to them. It's still safe to say that the dissolution of this particular group is going to be a particularly bitter pill to swallow. The Babies' speedy, heavy odes to growing up and not giving in were assurances that the angst and anger of your teenage years only gets more complex as you grow older (2011's Violent Boredom, a nine-track, 8-minute album, speaks volumes to finding meaning in suburban, real-world life). It's a bummer to know that frontman Justin Arnold's manic energy won't be a regular sight anymore. Founding guitarist Sulynn Hago, one of the finest ax-wielders in the bay area, will even rejoin the band as they lay their baby to rest, making the whole thing feel all too final.

Dropkick Murphys

With the Bots

Details: Monday 6:30 p.m. Jannus Live, 16 Second St. N, St. Petersburg. $29.50 and up. (727) 565-0550.

There's no shortage of Celtic punk coming out of Massachusetts. Dropkick Murphys, an almost 20-year-old septet from the Boston suburb of Quincy, stand out from the bunch, though, all thanks to their extreme allegiance to Beantown (last year the band raised more than $300,000 for Boston Marathon victims) and particularly rough-and-tumble brand of hard-nosed, working man's bagpipe rock. Their city has reciprocated the love (the band has repeatedly played at Fenway Park on game days, including a now infamous national anthem during last year's World Series), and the boys always pay it forward, this time bringing buzzing West Coast duo the Bots to open.

Christina Perri

With Birdy

Details: Saturday 8 p.m. State Theatre, 687 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. $25-$30. (727) 895-3045.

A lot of Christina Perri's material — especially hit single Jar of Hearts and uplifting anthem The Words — are borderline religious, with all of the big, sweeping melodies and inspirational lyrics. The heavy feelings may come from the 27-year-old's days as a struggling singer-songwriter, but Perri does have a few upbeat numbers (Run, Arms) in her quiver. This show has a good chance of being packed or sold out, and you'd be foolish to miss the set from opener Jasmine van den Bogaerde (a.k.a. Birdy). The 17-year-old U.K. export is a vocal phenom with a solid repertoire of original material, but she first turned heads by turning Bon Iver's Skinny Love into a sulking, smoldering, piano-driven hit single of her own.

Times correspondent Ray Roa can be reached at suburbanapologist.com.

 
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