Concerts Are Bringing Live Entertainment Back to the Fans on the Florida Suncoast
It has been a slow and painful process for the live music industry and the fans to patiently wait out the pandemic but little by little, shows are making it back to the venues for live concerts. This past weekend at Ruth Eckerd Performing Arts Hall in Clearwater, those “JukeBox Heroes”, Foreigner, played a two-night gig at 50% audience capacity. The audience had to be masked except when eating or drinking, but they didn’t care. They were so happy and excited to see a live show and so was Foreigner for that matter! Lead singer Kelly Hansen, who has worked lead vocals for the band since 2005, joked about spending a lot of time at home this past year. Everybody could relate to Kelly’s joke about learning to use his “sitting muscles”.
The tour titled, “Foreigner – The Greatest Hits”, was exactly as advertised. Opening with a trio of Billboard Top 20 tunes that included “Head Games”, “Double Vision” and “Cold as Ice”, the crowd was fired up! Tampa’s own guitarist Luis Maldonado has left the band Train to come on board with Foreigner as Thom Gimball retires. Mick Jones is still with the band but not currently touring for this leg of the tour. The lineup of Bruce Watson and Jeff Pilson (Dokken) on guitar and bass are in place as well as Chris Frazier on drums and Michael Bluestein on keys, who both give us a fantastic solo interlude during the show. The lighting and sound were stellar. Hit after hit continued with “Urgent”, “Dirty White Boy”, and that showstopper finale tune “I Wanna Know What Love Is”, which had everyone up out of their seats for a standing ovation. A great time was had by all!
In the Tampa Bay area, the Mid-Florida Amphitheater, Amalie Arena, Capitol Theatre and Ruth Eckerd will have various shows and tours coming through this summer. On Friday, June 4th Ruth Eckerd will host the next generation of the Allman Brothers sons with the “Allman Betts Band”. The Cap has “Hot Tuna” on June 5th. The first tour at Mid-Florida is “Chicago”, to kick off celebrating the Fourth of July weekend on Friday, July 2nd. Amalie Arena currently has Lightning games on going and Rod Stewart is coming on August 14th with Safety Harbor’s resident rocker Robin Zander and his band Cheap Trick opening for “Rod the Mod”.
Expect some of these concerts to run 90-120 minutes, depending on the artist, venue and even state you are in. Caution is the word in starting shows and doing them in a safe way. At the Ruthie, your temp is taken as you walk in and for now masks are necessary but that will no doubt change in the future as the country moves on. Indoor and outdoor venues will have different requirements.
It’s a start and will hopefully lead us back to full-blown tour schedules in 2022. Don’t forget to support local live music in your neighborhood bars, restaurants, and festivals around the Suncoast. Some of your fave venues will be reopening soon like Tampa’s beloved Skipper’s Smokehouse who brings in both national and local artists to perform. Music concerts are back and will keep coming, it can’t be stopped!
Photos by Vicky Sullivan