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Heroes and Headliners Celebrate Veterans Day in Tampa 

| Vicky Sullivan |

Walmart has been dedicated to helping Veterans since founder Sam Walton served in World War II; he was determined to give back to the military. Walmart has donated millions to various Veteran programs and organizations. In 2023, they took it to the public for a special Veteran’s Day concert in Tampa, Florida at the Mid-Florida Amphitheater.  Live streamed for free; Vet’s and fans alike were able to watch on the Internet if they couldn’t be at the sold-out show! 

Opening ceremonies began at 6:30 p.m. by the 13th Army band from Miramar, Florida, a National Guard Band.  They opened with the National Anthem of the U.S. and honored every branch of the service with their service songs including Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard and Space Force.  A fitting way to honor Veteran’s Day and start the show, with the American flag flying on the big screen.  The hosts of the event were NFL and Tampa Bay Bucs player Rob Gronkowski and actress/model Camille Kostek, a real-life couple.  Gronk shot out t-shirts to the audience in-between acts and the couple joked with each other.   There was a video package by each artist preceding their performance.

The first headliner of the night was H.E.R.  An R&B singer as well as a multi-instrumentalist:  drums, piano and guitars.  Her real name is Gabriella Wilson.  She has received an Emmy, five Grammys and an Oscar for her best original song from the film “Judas and the Black Messiah.”  In 2021, she sang “America the Beautiful” at the Superbowl and recently was a surprise guest with the Foo Fighters on Saturday Night Live.  She opened with a cover of DJ Khaled’s “We Going Crazy.”   She performed with a full band and four back round singers.   Her setlist included “Comfortable” on acoustic guitar and a great version of “Make It Rain” with H.E.R. on electric guitar.  I recently saw H.E.R. at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival and she was AMAZING on electric guitar!  A medley of I Love Rock N Roll/We Will Rock You/Glory with electric was great but her cover of Lenny Kravitz’ “Are You Gonna Go My Way” rocked the house! She closed her set with “We Made It” and took a turn on the drums.  Learn more about H.E.R. at HER-official.


Rob Gronkowski came back to the stage and this time brought a special guest! Tampa’s own Hulk Hogan made an appearance to honor the Veterans and help Gronk shoot off more t-shirts.  Watch out when Gronkamania and Hulkamania come to your town!  


The second headliner was the rock band Imagine Dragons and can I just say WOW! Having never experienced their show, I was blown away!  They have sold over seventy-five million albums and 160 billion streams on the Internet making them one of the world’s best-selling artists.  Pretty good for a rock band that started out in 2008 from Las Vegas!  They have kept arena rock alive at a time when rock has needed it.  They opened with “Believer” and the audience was going crazy! Using confetti and smoke cannons early and continuously throughout the show, not just as an encore tactic, it starts things off with high energy for the audience.  Lead singer Dan Reynolds is a powerful and athletic frontman taking the audience in from the first move.  The Star-Spangled-Banner was played by bass player Ben McKee as a tribute for the Veteran’s Day show.   “Thunder” was dedicated to a first time 11-year-old concert goer.

Dan gave a speech on mental health during the show, which is so needed.  The four-man band played a 14-song set and put on a great show. They closed with their 2013 worldwide hit “Radioactive”. You can check them out at Imagine Dragons Music.


The third and closing headliner is this year’s CMA Winner of Male Vocalist of the Year, Chris Stapleton.  Chris just released a brand new album on November 10th titled “Higher!” Chris and his band opened with his latest single release “White Horse.”   Both “Parachute” and “Traveler” from his first album “Traveler” as Chris said “started it all off” made the setlist cut.  A small disappointment was that Stapleton’s wife Morgane was not in attendance to perform.  They have a magical dynamic together. Chris doesn’t do a lot of talking but he doesn’t have to, his voice does it all! He is simply amazing live! “You Should Probably Leave” and “Cold” were just beyond great.  A surprising medley of “Free Bird/The Devil Named Music” was a brilliant combo.    Stapleton closed with the song everyone was waiting for, “Tennessee Whiskey!”  An interesting and eclectic mix of artists brought their best game for Veteran’s Day. Chris has new dates at Chris Stapleton.

Chris Stapleton

 Walmart did a great job putting on this initial foray into the Veteran’s Day concert including providing a hat for all in person attendees to commemorate the occasion here in Tampa, and they should certainly keep the tradition going next year.  You can catch the short version of the livestream at this link.

Vicky Sullivan Photos  

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