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Ushering in a new era

By SHANNON BREEN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 12, 2002


Usher, short for Usher Raymond, has made the transition from teen pop star status to a successful R&B singer. He makes his way to Tampa on Saturday. This is his first tour as a headliner.

Usher began singing in an Atlanta church choir at age 12. When his vocal talents became apparent, he was recruited and signed by LaFace Records while still attending high school.

His 1994 self-titled album, which was executive-produced by Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, spawned a Top 10 hit, Think of You, on the Billboard 100. It also led to work singing jingles for Coca-Cola and the 1996 Olympics.

In the meantime, Usher launched an acting career, appearing in the 1998 horror satire The Faculty and the 1999 urban high-school drama Light It Up.

In early 2001, Usher was set to release a new album, All About You, when tracks were leaked to Napster, the Internet sharing service. Arista ultimately decided to postpone its release while Usher returned to the studio to record new tracks for the album. Finally, last summer, the freshly retitled album 8701 saw the light of day.

Also featured on this hip-hop extravaganza tour are: rapper Nas; Faith Evans, former wife of the late Notorious B.I.G., who has just released her third album; and Mr. Cheeks, whose latest CD was produced by Stephen Marley, son of Bob Marley.

While touring, Usher reportedly fines his dancers about $10 for every misstep to encourage perfect routines, according to London's Sun newspaper. Among the singer's preshow demands: a meditation room draped in black and lighted with French candles. Too much preparedness? See if it pays off on Saturday. $35.50-$50. Ice Palace Arena. Call 287-8844.

TODAY 12

MITCH HEDBERG. The 32-year-old native of Minnesota has appeared on David Letterman seven times. With long hair, dark glasses and an amiable grin, Hedberg may have you convinced he's just another dope fobbing off boring pot humor. $12-$16; 8 p.m. today; 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday. Improv Comedy Theatre, Centro Ybor. Call 864-4000

TALKING WITH... Directed by Anna Brennen, this show explores the amusing and sometimes frightening lives of 11 extraordinary idiosyncratic characters, including a snake handler, an ex-rodeo rider, a baton twirler and a lamp lady. No matter the situation, the characters always speak from their souls. Talking With... is performed by StageWorks at Shimberg Playhouse, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, today through July 28. $13-$17; Performances are scheduled for Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. Call 229-STAR (7827).

SEVEN NATIONS: This is one of the few occasions where it's okay for a guy to wear a skirt. Celtic rock band Seven Nations has been dubbed a Dave Matthews Band with bagpipes. Young Dubliners and Great Big Sea are the opening performers. Jannus Landing, 220 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Call 898-2100.

BASEBALL: VERO BEACH DODGERS AT TAMPA YANKEES. $3-$5; 7 p.m.; Legends Field. Call 287-8844.

BASEBALL: SEATTLE MARINERS AT TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS. 7:15 p.m. $14-$195. Tropicana Field. Call 287-8844.

13 -- SATURDAY

BASEBALL: VERO BEACH DODGERS AT TAMPA YANKEES. $3-$5; 7 p.m.; Legends Field. Call 287-8844.

BASEBALL: SEATTLE MARINERS AT TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS. July 13, $14-$195; 6:15 p.m.; Tropicana Field. Call 287-8844.

JOBSITE THEATER: COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE. In a one-night-only re-engagement of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), Jobsite Theater romps through all 37 of Shakespeare's plays. They have packed their trunk with everything from skulls to skirts and daggers to dinosaurs. Having shrunk Shakespeare's wit and wisdom into manageable morsels of madness, they tear around the stage in tights and trainers. $25; 10:30 p.m.; Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Shimberg Playhouse. Call 229-7827.

14 -- SUNDAY

FLATLANDERS: The fabled West Texas band performs at Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road. $17; 6 p.m. Call 287-8844.

ICE CREAM SOCIAL. Relying on lactose tolerance, visitors may choose from a variety of ice cream flavors and toppings to build their own creations. After the kids are cooled off from ingesting ice cream, they may be able to enjoy the sultry summer humidity while creating funky glasses and colorful butterflies. $6 children 2 and older; $4 adults; 1 to 4 p.m.; Kid City, 75501 N Boulevard, Tampa. Call 935-8441.

BASEBALL: SEATTLE MARINERS AT TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS. $14-$195; 1:15 p.m.; Tropicana Field. Call 287-8844.

15 -- MONDAY

BASEBALL. OAKLAND ATHLETICS AT TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS, $14-$195; 7:15 p.m.; Tropicana Field. Call 287-8844.

THE GIRL WHO LIVED IN A SUITCASE. A captivating work that flows from high theatrics to gritty realism in telling the story of a girl and her free-spirited magician parents. The toll of life on the road is no small part of her growing up, and the adoration of crowds is no substitute for a peaceful life and parental affection. A staged reading of work by Deborah Wain. Part of New Visions Play Reading Series. Audience talk-back follows reading. $5; 7 p.m., American Stage, 211 Third St. S, St. Petersburg. Call (727) 823-7529.

16 -- TUESDAY

BASEBALL: OAKLAND ATHLETICS AT TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS. $14-$195; 7:15 p.m. Tropicana Field. Call 287-8844.

17 -- WEDNESDAY

BASEBALL: BOSTON RED SOX AT TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS. $14-$195; 7:15 p.m. Tropicana Field. Call 287-8844.

18 -- THURSDAY

CARLOS MENCIA. Mencia, who honed his style while making his rounds at the Comedy Store, Laugh Factory and L.A. Cabaret, has appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show, An Evening at the Improv and The Tonight Show. $12-$16; 8 p.m. Thursday; 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday. Improv Comedy Theater, Centro Ybor. Call 864-4000.

GETTING MAMA MARRIED. The story revolves around a 40-something divorcee who finds herself in a predicament when she starts dating again. Her only daughter keeps setting her mother up with men, including the mailman. Through Sept 8. $14.95; Buffet starts at 4 p.m. and curtains go up at 6 p.m.; Early Bird Dinner Theater at Bill Irle's, 1411 N Fort Harrison Ave., Clearwater. $14.95. (727) 446-5898.

LOOKING AHEAD

  • OZZFEST 2002: July 26, West Palm Beach, Mars Music Amphitheatre.
  • SYSTEM OF A DOWN: July 27, USF Sun Dome.
  • BAD COMPANY: July 28, Ruth Eckerd Hall.
  • SAMMY HAGAR AND DAVID LEE ROTH: Aug. 1, Ice Palace.
  • BLONDIE: Aug. 6, House of Blues, Orlando.
  • TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS: Aug 6. Ice Palace.
  • BILLY RAY CYRUS: Aug. 17, Ruth Eckerd Hall.
  • THE MALE INTELLECT: AN OXYMORON: Aug. 20, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.
  • EMINEM: Aug. 31, Ice Palace.
  • CHER AND CYNDI LAUPER: Sept. 2, Ice Palace.
  • ELTON JOHN AND BILLY JOEL: Sept. 13, Ice Palace.
  • MARC ANTHONY: Sept. 17, Ice Palace.
  • ALAN JACKSON: Sept. 20, Ice Palace.
  • OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN: Sept. 21, Ruth Eckerd Hall.

City Times: The rest of the stories

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