St. Petersburg Times: Weekend
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Hot Ticket

By GINA VIVINETTO, Times Pop Music Critic
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 10, 2003

Towering soul

Tower of Power's mission is to prove that soul music can be the salvation for all of us. With its dazzling brass section and unstoppable verve, for 25 years the San Francisco-area 10-piece has churned out feet-shufflers including the 1970s favorites What Is Hip?, signature tune You're Still A Young Man, So Very Hard To Go and Soul Vaccination.

Tower's shows are testament to its rambunctious energy: two hours of funky feel-goodness, heavy on horn blasts courtesy of founder/saxophonist Emilio Castillo and his cohorts, some original members and some sprightly new fellas.

The band stayed out of the limelight throughout the 1980s -- although Tower did lend its mighty horn section to Huey Lewis and the News for touring purposes. The band gained momentum again toward the late 1990s, when jam bands, horn sections and groove music were suddenly not passe anymore. The Tower horn boys guested on a Phish album, which seems apropos.

The band is celebrated for sticking to its guns, playing the funky stuff it has always relished and teaching folks the difference between sold-out and Souled Out.

Tower of Power performs 8 p.m. today at Jannus Landing, 16 Second St. N, St. Petersburg. $23. (727) 896-2276.

Still smooth at 76
[Publicity photo]
Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra?

The debate still goes on in the Vivinetto household. While Ol' Blue Eyes is considered the finest male interpreter of the Great American Songbook, even he said it was paisano Bennett who was better, and who argues with Frank?

Bennett, 76, is too humble to concur. That's part of his appeal. Bennett's vocal delivery is uncluttered and uncocky. With a sandpapery croon that wraps warmth around every note, Bennett has for decades delivered favorites such as Rags to Riches, All of Me, the bouncy I Wanna Be Around, his signature I Left My Heart In San Francisco -- you name it, Bennett's sung it, and better than the rest.

What you find at Bennett's once-a-year Tampa Bay area performances is that each show is stellar, filled to capacity, not just with Bennett's peers and peeps of his age, but with younger folks who dig the guy's smooth style. Bennett is a storyteller and a pal to many of the jazz greats, so his onstage chit chat is filled with anecdotes about Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa and the "dynamite" ladies he's had the good fortune to sing with over the years.

Not to mention, Bennett's a hunk and swears he still loves belting it out. Check out the ever-present twinkle in his eye.

"I wanna sing for another 50 years," Bennett told the crowd last year.

Tony Bennett performs ay 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, 1010 N W.C. MacInnes Place, Tampa. $49-$69. (813) 229-7827.

Bands of a feather play together
[AP photo]

Pearl Jam and Sleater-Kinney, two of the most pummeling, political acts in contemporary music, join forces to bring one of the year's most exciting tours to Tampa this weekend.

Once the mascots of the Seattle grunge scene in the early 1990s, Pearl Jam has taken measures to "depopularize" in the past several years. The band, whose members include lead singer Eddie Vedder, had become bona fide celebrities. Its battles with Ticketmaster and work for social causes began to eclipse the music.

Pearl Jam's focus is once again on the tunes, and the music, such as that found on the recent Riot Act, is loose, muddy and in no way designed for hits. It is, however, daring, filled with passion and honesty. For which Team Pop says, Two thumbs up!

Outspoken Vedder got into hot water last month when fans at a concert booed him for introducing new tune Bushleaguer with a reprimand for the president and his decision to go to war with Iraq.

Sleater-Kinney is no less forthright. The all-chick trio from Portland has been a critical darling since forming in 1995. Don't dismiss the band as merely "feminist" punk, or Riot Grrrls; Sleater-Kinney is wise about all sorts of global events, including the ones that go on inside us. The band refuses to sign with a major label and shares many of Pearl Jam's concerns about dealing with fat corporate cats.

Vedder is a huge fan. He begged the gals to join his band for the entire tour and likely jumped for joy when they agreed to two weeks' worth of dates.

Pearl Jam performs with Sleater-Kinney at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $36.75. (813) 287-8844 or (727) 898-2100.

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