Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Woolf wows (two) Idol judges with "Fun"

   The top 10 took on the top 10.
   On Wednesday’s performance episode, Bradenton’s Sam Woolf and the other nine “American Idol” finalists were required to sing a song that had been on the Billboard top 10 at some point between 2011 and now.
   The contestants chose songs by everyone from Pink to FloridaGeorgia Line and from Lady Gaga to Hunter Hayes.
   After a couple of decent performances that opened the show and drew positive but unenthusiastic responses from judges, Alex Preston kicked up the energy with a performance of One Direction’s “Story of My Life” that all three judges – Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. – agreed was the best of the night.
    Sixteen-year old Malaya Watson followed with a gorgeous rendition of “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars.

   Woolf, the 17-year-old Braden River High School student who has impressed judges with his vocals and won the hearts of teenage girls with his looks, was the last to perform. Last week, he had finished in the bottom three for the first time, after performing the Beatles’ “Come Together.”
    This week, he chose a song that he said was a better representation of who he is an artist.
    The song was “We Are Young,” the 2012 hit by Fun. Woolf told host Ryan Seacrest it was a song hat he felt comfortable with.
    He went back to performing with a guitar, standing at a mic stand. Last week he sang with a handheld microphone, walking across the stage as he sang..
    This week's performance was  livelier  than some of his past ones. Lopez swayed and sang along and Urban smiled through the entire performance.

   “I loved it,” Lopez said. ”I liked it so much more than what you did last week.”
   Urban indicated, as he has before, that he was sure Woolf would be back next. He said he had a lot to say to Woolf, but that he knew he’s had other chances to talk to him.

   Only Connick was less than enthusiastic about Woolf’s performance. He said he hoped Woolf would “own” the songs that he performed, the way he owned his early performance of Ed Sheeran’s “Lego House.”
   "You can do this,” Connick told him
    Woolf indicated to Seacrest that he thought this week’s performance was one of his best.
   Woolf and his fans will find out whether he’ll make it to the top nine tomorrow night, in a one-hour results show that’s scheduled for 9 p.m. on Fox.

Florida Orchestra offers premiere of Rogers work

  David Rogers is well-known to area music lovers. Before he left the Tampa Bay area last year to become executive director of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra, Rogers co-founded and performed at the prestigious Bonk Festival of New Music, which presented memorable concerts in Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Tampa for 14 years. He also taught composition at the University of South Florida and played with the avant-garde rock band Handshake Squad.
   He'll be back in the area this weekend to see the world premiere of his work "Euphemism No. 3." The Florida Orchestra will perform a masterworks concert featuring
David Rogers
that piece, Bartok's "Piano Concerto No. 1" and Sibelius' "Symphony No. 4." Stefan Sanderling, the Orchestra's erstwhile music director, conducts.
   The concert will be performed three times, Friday at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, and Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. St .Petersburg's obviously the closest one for Bradenton-area residents. That one starts at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets will run you $15-$45.
   Rogers will be part of the pre-concert presentation about an hour before each show.
   Call 727-892-3337 or go to

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota extends "Freud"

   Florida Studio Theatre's production of "Freud's Last Stand" just opened a few days ago, but it's so popular that its run has already been extended.
    It's now set to run through March 30 in FST's Keating Theatre.
FST's "Freud's Last Session"
   The drama by Mark St. Germain revolves around a hypothetical meeting between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis, played by George Tynan Crowley and Jeffrey Plunkett. It's set at the end of Freud's life, and he and Lewis, two of the leading intellectuals of their era, discuss the existence of God and other big issues.
   Tickets range from $32 to $34. Call 941-366-9000, or go to online at
   FST is at 241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Counting Crows come to Tampa's Straz Center

   It's been seven years since Counting Crows last released a studio album, but singer Adam Duritz and the boys are still together. And they'll be in Tampa June 11.
Adam Duritz
   They're coming to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts along with Toad the Wet Sprocket, who came out with their first album of the 21st century last year.
   Counting Crows, of course, hit the big time in 1993 with their huge single "Mr. Jones" and their great album "August and Everything After." They've posted strong sales ever since, and one of their songs was nominated for an Oscar ("Accidentally in Love," which was used in "Shrek 2") and they're known for energetic, improvisational shows. They've got a new studio album coming out in the fall.
   Toad the Wet Sprocket has been around since the late '80s, with the same four members. They're a solid indie band with a devoted following.
   Tickets are $49.50 to $89.50 plus service charge. A VIP ticket package is available for $290 plus service charge. Call 813-229-7827 or  go to

Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden to perform in Tampa

   Just a few years ago, Trent Reznor, aka Nine Inch Nails, was publicly snarking about Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Soundgarden.
   Apparently there are no hard feelings. Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden are co-headlining a U.S. tour. (The tour had been rumored for a while but was just announced on Sunday.) It's slated to stop at the Mid-Florida Credit
Nine Inch Nails
Union  Amphitheatre in Tampa on Aug. 11.
   Opening the show for the two giants of '90s rock are Death Grips, a punk hip-hop group from Sacramento.
   As of Monday morning, the Tampa show was listed on the Nine Inch Nails website, but not on the Mid-Florida Credit Union Amphitheatre or Live Nation site. So it's definitely scheduled but tickets aren't available yet. Check for the latest details.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bradenton's Sam Woolf takes on "Come Together"

   The judges have been saying they want to see another side of Sam Woolf. They saw it Wednesday but thy were only moderately impressed.   
   The 17-year-old Braden River High School student was the first of the remaining 11 contestants t perform live or the judges and the public on Wednesday’s episode of “American Idol.” 
   The theme was “Songs from the Cinema.” Contestants were asked to perform as song that was either written for a movie, or prominently featured in movie. Woolf chose “Come Together,” the Beatles classic hat was used in the 2007 film “Across the Universe.” 
   It showed a different side of Woolf, who up until now has performed slower, introspective songs. 
   For “Come Together,” he walked and swayed across the stage and added some more inflection into his signing than he has in some previous performances.
The judges liked it but said they still wanted him to stretch his talents. 

   “It was great to hear that side of you, because we haven’t heard that side of you, quite that way,” judge Keith Urban said. “I love the way, I said to Jen, the way you’re loosening up a little bit. You can just keep going on that trajectory.” 
   The “Jen” he referred to was fellow judge Jennifer Lopez, who echoed Urban’s critique.
“It was like little baby rock star,” she said “We need big rock star.” 

   She called Woolf’s performance “A nice start to the show.” 
   Harry Connick Jr., who’s been stingier with praise for all the contestants than Lopez and Urban have, called Woolf’s performance “average,” but said it showed that he was a big step forward. 
   “I really think you’re on the way to where you need to be,” he said.

   Before Woolf’s performance, the other finalists got a chance to poke fun of him in a “screen test.” They made good-natured jokes about his youth, his rabid following of young women, and about his hometown.
   “I’m Sam Woolf,” said one of them. “I’m 14 years old and I live in a retirement community,” said one of the contestants.
   One more contestant will be eliminated through a public vote Sm and his fans will find out tomorrow night, in a results show that starts at 9 p.m. on Fax, whether he’ll proceed to the next round. 
   This week’s vote is an especially significant one. The 10 finalists who remain after tomorrow will be part of national the “American Idol” tour over the summer.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bradenton's Sam Woolf advances again on "Idol"

   Keith Urban was right.
   On Wednesday night's episode of “American Idol,” Urban predicted that Bradenton singer/songwriter Sam Woolf would be back next week. In fact he said would “guarantee” it
It didn’t take long on Thursday night’s show for Woolf and his fans to find out he was safe from elimination. He was the first to get the news from host Ryan Seacrest that the voting public had decided he would move on for at least one more round.
   Just a few minutes into Thursday’s show, Seacrest summoned Woolf and three other contestants to the stage. He quickly gave the news that Emily Piriz of Orlando – the only other remaining Florida contestant – was in the bottom three this week, and that Woolf was safe.
That means that Woolf, a 17-year-old senior at Braden River High School, is one of only 11 finalists remaining from the 75,000 singers who auditioned for this season’s “Idol.”
   On Wednesday, Woolf performed live, offering a county-tinged version of “Just One” by Oregon alt-folk band Blind Pilot.
   As they have through much of the season, the three judges – Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. – praised Woolf’s singing but said they were hoping to see more emotionally dynamic performances. So far, he has performed almost exclusively slower, introspective songs, including one original.
   After performances by former American Idol champ Phillip Phillips and Irish band Kodaline, Seacrest announced that Piriz had received the fewest votes this week. She got one last  chance to sing for the judges, who could have used their one chance to overrule the public ote.
   They didn't do that, so Piriz went home. She was the second Floridan to be eliminated in two weeks. Last week, Kristen O’Connor of Sebastian went home. Woolf is the last surviving Floridian.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dorothea Benton Frank speaks at Manatee library luncheon

   The people at the Manatee County Library Foundation were no doubt already thrilled that they had landed best-selling author Dorothea Benton Frank to be the featured speaker at its big fundraiser next week.
   Then, just in the past few days, the news came that Frank's book "The Christmas Pearl" is going to made into a movie starring Whoopi Goldberg.
   Frank will speak at the annual Library
Foundation Author Luncheon, scheduled for March 14 at the Polo Grill & Bar in Lakewood Ranch. The luncheon is the primary fundraising event of the Library Foundation, which supports the Manatee County Library System.

Whoopi Goldberg
   Goldberg is also the executive producer of the film which, like Frank's book, follows an elderly woman who is the matriarch of a family that's together for Christmas at her home. When her usual maid has to leave, Pearl, the maid to the matriarch's grandmother, comes back to the family as a ghost." Goldberg -- who coincidentally won an Oscar for her role in "Ghost" -- plays the ghost of Pearl. It's supposed to start production in June.
   Frank is a fixture on the New York Times best-seller list with such novels as "Sullivans Island," "Plantation," "Isle of Palms," "Shem Creek," "Full of Grace," "Bulls Island" and "Porch Lights."

   Tickets for the luncheon are still available for $45. Call 941-748-5555, ext. 6306 or go to

Monday, March 3, 2014

Gipsy Kings play St. Petersburg May 14

   In 1987, the Gipsy Kings released "Bamboleo, " their first single that became a huge hit and started them on their Grammy-winning career.
   Their first album remained on the music charts for 40 weeks and was certified gold or platinum in 15 countries.

The Gipsy Kings
That was 27 years ago, but for some reason, the Gipsy Kings are now on their 25th anniversary tour. They'll be at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg Wednesday, May 14 at 7:30 p.m. 

   The Kings combine traditional flamenco styles with Western pop and Latin rhythms, and Arabic, reggae, jazz and gypsy styles. 
   Tickets go on sale at noon Friday, March 7. They'll set you back $52.50, $62.50, $72.50, $92.50. Call 727-893-7832  or go to