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Tours de force

Published January 11, 2007

[Handout photo]
Justin Timberlake performs Feb. 22 at the St. Pete Times Forum.

[Handout photo]
Tom Jones hasn't played here in ages. See him April 4-5 at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

You know it's going to be a strong concert season when last names aren't necessary, but exclamation points are.

Gwen! Christina! Stevie!

Justin! Jerry Lee! Gnarls!

After a lackluster '06, we could use a powerhouse concert schedule around these parts. There were a few big shows last year: Bon Jovi, Coldplay, Bob Dylan. But after the smorgasbord of bold-faced superlatives in 2005 - Bono! Mick! Sir Paul! - we've been hankering for a hearty helping of the star treatment.

And we're about to get it.

So here you go: my picks for the 10 best concerts of spring 2007 (as well as five you might want to skip).

Bob Seger Saturday, St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa Seger and his Silver Bullet Band haven't toured in 10 years, leaving hordes of Bud-swilling good-timers thirsty for rowdy Detroit thunder. The reviews have been raves, as Bob has rocked from Katmandu to Hollywood Nights. New album Face the Promise is good, so choose bathroom breaks wisely.

The Fray (Jan. 26, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater) Time will tell if Denver's the Fray is more than a two-hit wonder. But you can't deny the catchy pop-rock goodness (and iTunes domination) of smash songs Over My Head and How to Save a Life. Are the Fray fleeting like Five for Fighting or durable like Coldplay? Go see for yourself.

Gnarls Barkley/Red Hot Chili Peppers (Jan. 28, St. Pete Times Forum) This one's all about the opening act: Gnarls Barkley's eclectic, electric soul-meets-hip-hop revue should be a blast. Expect wacky costumes, too: DJ Danger Mouse and singer Cee-Lo have based their stage outfits on Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz and Austin Powers.

Stevie Nicks (Feb. 9, Ford Amphitheatre, Tampa) Tied with Bob Dylan and Tom Waits for the most distinctive voice in rock, the scarves-aplenty Gold Dust Woman brings her mystical-sorceress act to the State Fair. Eating a corn dog and grooving to Stand Back? Doesn't get much better than that.

Justin Timberlake (Feb. 22, St. Pete Times Forum) The hot-'n'-heavy fan fervor is going to be ridiculous. But if JT can match the excitement of his dance moves with the funky bounce of his music, this show could be a booty-shaking doozy.

Hinder (Feb. 23, Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg) To be honest, I'm more curious than confident about this show's success. But millions of music fans made this pseudo-hair-metal band from Oklahoma City one of the breakout acts of 2006. Smash power ballad Lips of an Angel has a horrible message - cheating is cool if the other lover is really hot - but a killer guitar solo.

Tom Jones (April 4-5, Ruth Eckerd Hall) Why TJ? 'Cause the grinding Welsh Wonder hasn't played here in ages. Plus, at 66, he can still hit the notes that make the gals toss their bloomers. Expect all the old hits (It's Not Unusual, She's a Lady), plus new goodies, including Sexbomb and Tom Jones International, co-written by Wyclef Jean.

Christina Aguilera (May 4, St. Pete Times Forum) No longer dirrty, but still plenty sexxy, the octave-leaping vocalist is touring behind a throwback double album, the bold, beautiful Back to Basics, and a platinum pinup-doll image to match. It's nice to know not all former teen queens turn into trash.

Jerry Lee Lewis (May 6, Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, as part of the Tampa Bay Blues Fest) The Killer returns! Fresh off new album Last Man Standing, in which he goes head to head with Bruce Springsteen, Kid Rock and Mick Jagger, the 71-year-old Jerry Lee still has the firepower to set the bay area ablaze.

Gwen Stefani (May 8, Ford Amphitheatre) Co-workers have lambasted me for my drooly praise for the Hollaback Girl, but seriously now: Is there anyone else in pop music - male or female - who blends class, talent, charm, sex appeal and consistency a la Gwennie? Once you hear her yodel, you'll be sold, too.

If you go to any of the following shows, don't blame me if you go home cranky.

Rod Stewart (Wednesday, St. Pete Times Forum) When I was a senior at Syracuse University, I saw Rod Stewart in concert. It was a disaster. He looked like he'd rather have his gums scraped than entertain 20,000 people. That was 14 years ago, before he did all those abominable covers albums. Do you really think he's gotten better with age?

New Edition (Feb. 10, St. Pete Times Forum) I'd love for this to be good. I'd love for Bobby Brown to be there (he won't) and for the guys to play Candy Girl and Cool It Now (they will) and for all of us to feel young again (we wish). But alas, this one has train wreck written all over it, especially since I saw them do a halftime show in D.C. a few years ago and wanted to cry.

Taylor Hicks (Feb. 22, Tampa Theatre, Tampa) How much you want to bet the reigning American Idol champ opens the show by doing his patented dorky-white-guy dance and hollering, "Is the Soul Patrol in the house?" Then he'll blow the only note he knows on the harmonica. I'm getting nauseous just writing it.

The Who (March 13, Ford Amphitheatre) This could go either way: The remaining Whos in Whoville - Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey - will either blow your mind with guitar-smashing ferocity . . . or steal your wallet with tired takes on know-'em-by-heart hits. Added concern? New disc Endless Wire is a concept album. What if they play all of it?

Meat Loaf (April 3, Ruth Eckerd Hall) Mr. Loaf has played Ruth Eckerd Hall so many times lately, I'm convinced the wheezy rocker lives in a coat closet there. If you heard him gasp for air on American Idol last year, you know that this bat out of hell should be flapping toward the retirement home.

Sean Daly can be reached at or (727) 893-8467. His blog is at

[Last modified January 11, 2007, 10:51:20]

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