Sunday, January 13, 2013

Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard lead my must-see concerts list for Tampa Bay in 2013

Merle Haggard plays The Mahaffey in St. Petersburg on Feb. 8.

Master singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen back at the Straz Performing Arts Center.

Folk-rock titans Crosby, Stills & Nash have a Van Wezel date.

And pop-soul queen Alicia Keys' "Set the World on Fire" tour will stop at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

All three announcements came last week, making 2013 an exciting year for concerts even if my beloved Rolling Stones' soon-to-be-announced tour doesn't make it to Tampa.

The likes of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber are also coming this way in a few months.

But I'll happily pass on those freak shows and teen pop stars.

Here are five upcoming concerts that I would like to attend.

Sunshine Blues Festival (Vinoy Park, Jan. 20): I first witnessed guitar virtuoso and Allman Brother Derek Trucks join forces with singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2008 for a tent-raising rendition of The Band's "The Weight." Since then, the husband-wife team has gone on to form the multiple Blues Music Awards and Grammy Award-winning Tedeschi Trucks Band, which will be joined at the beautiful Vinoy Park next Sunday by other personal favorites including Louisiana slide guitar great Sonny Landreth and New Orleans party-starter Big Sam and his Funky Nation.

Merle Haggard (Mahaffey, Feb. 8)
: I've been a huge Hag fan since my college days when I discovered his excellent box set "Down Every Road." Soon after, a smart editor lured me back to his publication with an interview offer. I had a long phoner with the honky tonk hero before he played a pretty brief but hugely satisfying show at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in February of 2002. I haven't seen Hag since, and that's a shame because his music means more to me every year.

Read more.

—Merle Haggard publicity photo

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