Leonard Cohen leads must-see concert list for Tampa Bay in 2013

January 13, 2013 

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.

Old 97's (State Theatre, Feb. 9): I'm not extremely excited about back-to-back drives over the Skyway, but I've never seen alt-country pioneers the Old 97's despite being an enthusiast for the past decade and doing two great interviews with friendly front man Rhett Miller, including one for this publication about a year ago.

Sheryl Crow (Van Wezel, Feb. 15): The wife and I love attending shows down the road at the Van Wezel, and while she's the bigger Crow fan, I'm all for enjoying a concert by the singer, songwriter and guitar rocker. Extra plus if Crow does her outstanding cover of Bob Dylan's "Mississippi."

Leonard Cohen (Straz Center, March 18): My love affair with the music of Leonard Cohen started in 1997 when I took a walk from my Gainseville student ghetto apartment and came across a record store the size of my current kitchen. Inside its musty walls, I became instantly enchanted by the song "Take this Waltz," which the clerk had playing on the stereo. He smiled knowingly when, with wide eyes, I asked who was singing the haunting, hypnotic utterly original love song? I left with a used copy of the Cohen CD "I'm Your Man" and having been enjoying his music, even his over-sung hymn "Hallelujah," ever since. Of course, when Cohen finally toured after a long hiatus I was out of town for his acclaimed-by-everyone-I-trust, three-hour show at the Straz. Not missing it this year.

Crosby, Stills & Nash (Van Wezel, May 8): My parents are way cool for many reasons including great taste in music and generosity: they landed awesome tickets for us to attend the mind-blowing 2002 CSN&Y show at the old Ice Palace, now Tampa Bay Times Forum. I think it would be only right to bring them down to attend this Van Wezel show with me and the wife for an early Mother's Day present, right?

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.

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