(All week on Soundcheck, we're looking back at the best Tampa Bay concerts of 2017. Today: Times designer Tara McCarty.)
Rae Sremmurd (May 12, Amalie Arena): I will never miss the Weeknd coming through Tampa (or say no to the possibility of seeing him in other cities or states). But as it was the fifth time I've seen him, and with the third and fourth times being unbelievably stellar performances, I deem the true stars of the show the Rae Sremmurd. The Weeknd's openers have released top hit after top hit the last couple years, and it was never more evident than hearing them played back to back to back. The energy was nonstop, their jumping continuous, and their crowd perfectly hyped by the time they closed their set. Highlight: When they came back on stage to perform Black Beatles with the Weeknd, even though I think they should have kept their highest-charting song in their own set. They deserve that much.
Paul McCartney (July 10, Amalie Arena): If I squinted just right from my third-level seat, I could pretend the figures jamming on stage were the Beatles in their prime. Sir Paul played without a break for more than two hours, covering 40 songs from all levels of his career. Every word of every story he told between songs, I relished as things I could joke about later ("Well, Paul McCartney once told me…"). He brought out a wide range of instruments, from piano to guitar to harmonica. Highlight: Love Me Do, because of my weakness for harmonicas; and his version of FourFive Seconds after hearing Rihanna's version last year. It was also the only song Paul played that I knew and my dad did not.
New Kids on the Block (July 15, Amalie Arena): I tagged along with a friend to finally see Boyz II Men properly (read: not over the wall at the Strawberry Festival) and left with an NKOTB tshirt. The boy band that started before I was born put on the most consistently energetic, talented and choreographed show I've ever seen. Decades late, I became a fan. The show had everything: Boy band poses, kicks to the camera, a happy birthday song, a changing camera (possibly prerecorded with a cameo by Joey Fatone!), crowd-surfing, Christmas music, confetti and fire. Highlight: Donnie Wahlberg singing shirtless atop a flaming piano.
Lil Wayne (Sept. 1, Jannus Live): I made a decision here. I had a ticket to Kendrick Lamar, performing the same night in Tampa. I gave up the ticket for the chance to see Lil Wayne for the fifth time, but first at such a small venue. What easily could have been a regrettable decision and a miserable time was neither. From the accurate opener of Mr. Carter to No Worries closer and hearing Got Money somewhere in between, I realized that with Weezy F, the F stood for feelings I'd long forgotten. The best rapper alive may have fallen down the ranks due to legal and label problems, seizures and sizzurp, but he can still put on a good show, appealing to old and new fans alike. Highlight: Mr. Carter, which spoke to every fan wondering where Lil Wayne has been if he's not putting out music.
— Tara McCarty