Unless you’re Mannheim Steamroller, most bands would rather stay home during the holidays than tour. So every year from about mid-December to early January it’s typically slim pickings. But big acts are finally returning to the road and our region again. Here are my highly subjective picks for the remainder of the month.
Jan. 15: Fred Eaglesmith, Ace’s, Bradenton
A singer/songwriter who deftly balances pathos and humor and knows how to deliver a great spoken word intro, Eaglesmith has been a favorite of mine since first seeing him at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa about a decade ago. While working at the Herald in 2004, I interviewed Eaglesmith and then with former Managing Editor Jim Smith had a superb time watching him perform at old Fogartyville Cafe -- filled to capacity that chilly November night -- in Bradenton. Indie pop darlings Of Montreal perform same day at the Ritz in Ybor City while 1990s geek-rockers Cake play Jannus Live in St. Petersburg.
Jan. 20: The Band Perry at Manatee County Fairgrounds, Palmetto
It’s a bit sappy, but I dig this new country sibling act’s breakthrough hit “If I Die Young” and the more upbeat, mandolin-laced, boy-crazy number “Hip to My Heart.” Plus, they’re playing the fair, which means I’ll stuff my face with all kinds of fried food before the show and double the fun. The always exciting New Orleans funk-rock ensemble Galactic performs same day at the Ritz.
Jan. 21: Drive-By Truckers at The Ritz, Ybor City
Like Lynyrd Skynyrd but a bit more cerebral, Drive-By Truckers blend big guitars and smart storytelling to create the best Southern rock to emerge since, well, Skynyrd. Some guy named Barry Manilow performs same day at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, while another singer I could go another couple lifetimes without seeing, Michael Bolton, plays the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota.
Jan. 23: Dionne Warwick at Van Wezel Performing Art Hall, Sarasota
The teaming of silky voiced Dionne Warwick with super songwriters/producers Burt Bacharach and Hal David in the 1960s resulted in about a half-dozen perfect -- that’s right, perfect -- pop songs and many more great ones. For evidence, check out the excellent, 24-track Rhino compilation “The Dionne Warwick Collection: Her All-Time Greatest Hits.” “Don’t Make Me Over,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “Walk on By,” “Trains and Boats and Planes,” “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” and “I Say a Little Prayer” are six recordings I consider flawless.
Jan. 28: Merle Haggard at Youkey Theatre, Lakeland
It’s a haul but it’s Hag, my personal hero. Other than Willie Nelson, who will perform at the Van Wezel, Feb. 17, there’s not a more important country music artist alive than Merle Haggard.
Jan. 29: Damon Fowler Group at Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa
WMNF (88.5) presents this record release party for Bradenton Beach resident Damon Fowler, whose wonderfully wicked “Devil Got His Way” album comes out via Blind Pig Records on Jan. 18.
Read my review of the Broadway-bound, Frank Wildhorn musical “Wonderland” on page 2A.
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at (941) 745-7057. Visit his blog, Buzz Worthy, at bradenton.com/blogs.