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Stanley Cup in tow, Cage the Elephant kicks off NHL playoffs with free concert in Tampa

Lead singer Matthew Shultz performs with Cage the Elephant at the kickoff party for the Tampa Bay Lightning's first playoff game on April 10, 2019 at Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa. (ALLIE GOULDING | Times)
Published Apr. 10

During a quick TV timeout in Cage the Elephant's concert Wednesday in downtown Tampa, singer Matt Shultz grabbed the Tampa Bay Lightning hat thrown onto the stage, flirted with putting it on, and grinned.

"I think I'm supposed to tell you guys we're about to be live," he said, "but I feel like the energy's already here."

Was it ever. Thousands of cobalt-clad Lightning fans lined up to pack Curtis Hixon Park for the free concert, thrown by the NHL to celebrate the opening of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. As the Lightning prepared to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets across downtown at Amalie Arena, Cage the Elephant gave fans a good look at what the team was playing for, with the actual Stanley Cup propped up on stage near the drum kit.

A week before that releasing their new album Social Cues, the Grammy-winning Kentuckians gave Tampa fans a preview of new songs like Skin and Bones, the unhinged Broken Boy and Ready to Let Go, currently the No. 1 alternative song in America.

They also mixed in rowdy old favorites like Cold Cold Cold, Ain't No Rest For the Wicked and Trouble, with the live-wire Shultz flailing, shadowboxing and clambering into the pit. So amped were all the fans -- most of whom had braced long lines to get in -- that they didn't seem to mind that bassist Daniel Tichenor and drummer Jared Champion were wearing Nashville Predators sweaters.

Cage ended their first proper show of 2019 with an unplanned encore, the furious Teeth, that will have to do Tampa fans until they return to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre with Beck on Aug. 29.

Maybe by that point, the Stanley Cup will have spent a little bit more time in Tampa.

"This is supposed to be full of champagne," Schultz said, eyeing the cup's silver bowl.

Check back in about six weeks.

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

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