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April in the Arts: Santana, Shakespeare, Mainsail and more

Bill DeYoung



Carlos Santana and his band will play the mid-Florida Credit Union Amphitheatre Aug. 27, with Earth, Wind & Fire. Photo: Bridget Burke.

Many of the arts events on the April calendar are outdoors, to remind us of how beautiful St. Petersburg can be in the green season of rebirth and renewal.

Rock ‘n’ roll legend Carlos Santana plays Al Lang Field April 18. It’s been 50 years since Santana, who’s 71 now, exploded out of the fertile San Francisco scene with an intoxicating blend of Latin rhythms, jazz changes and propulsive rock thrust. Santana – since the beginning, that’s been the name of his band – made an indelible first impression at the original Woodstock Festival in 1969, and subsequently with a passel of hits such as “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman” and a rocking cover of Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va.”

The master guitarist’s career arc has been considerable, as he’s adapted, collaborated and gone where the winds of his cultural and personal convictions have taken him. Santana has 10 Grammys, and his earliest albums – Santana, Abraxas and Caravanserai, especially – are considered classics, and to this day unsurpassed as Latin/rock excursions.

Later generations will know Santana by the 1999 single “Smooth,” a catchy rock ‘n’ roll cha cha cha with vocals by Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty. The record – credited to “Santana” and featuring Carlos’ trademark electric guitar loops and sizzles – spent 12 weeks on top pf the charts, and was officially named the best-selling single of the entire 1990s.

The April 18 concert is produced by Bill Edwards Productions, and as such info and tickets are available on Edwards’ Mahaffey Theater site, here.

  • American Stage returns to Demens Landing Park April 10 with the “feel good” musical comedy Mamma Mia!, which is, of course, based around the songs of the ‘70s Swedish pop group ABBA (they were composed by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, the male half of the former foursome, ABBA being an acronym for Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anna-Frid). Producing artistic director Stephanie Gularte is directing this American Stage in the Park production; Demens Landing is at Bayshore Drive and 1st Avenue SE. Details and tickets here.
  • Williams Park is alive with the sound of Shakespeare with the April 18-28 run of Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Greg Thompson. It’s the latest park production from the St. Petersburg Shakespeare Festival, which artistic director Veronica Leone Matthews started up in 2014. Admission is free, donations graciously accepted.
  • At Vinoy Park, the Tampa Bay Blues Festival (April 12-14) brings together a diverse lineup of players, including Boz Scaggs (like Santana, a San Francisco legend), Jonny Lang, Tab Benoit, Kenny Neal, Samantha Fish, C.J. Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band and plenty o’others. Here’s the website.
  • More than 250 fine arts and crafts exhibitors converge in Vinoy Park April 20 and 21 for he 44th annual Mainsail Art Festival. Event organizers say 100,000 people attend the juried art show each year, which has been ranked by Sunshine Artist Magazine among the “100 Best” Fine Art Events in the U.S.

Don’t forget …

Keep St. Pete Lit’s annual SunLit Festival, with 24 book-and/or-reading-related events, begins April 11. It takes place through the city. Here’s the website.

One of only 23 film fests in the country to be awarded a Film Festival Grant by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2013, St. Petersburg’s Sunscreen Film Festival has an international reputation (it now has a second edition each October in California). The majority of this year’s event, April 25-28, takes place at the AMC Sundial movie theaters (the festival film screenings) and at the Hyatt Place (a cornucopia of film-industry workshops). There are lots of snazzy parties, too, and famous people (none of whom have been announced yet) traditionally show up on the Opening Night Red Carpet (at Sundial). Here’s the schedule, and details.

Concerts to note

Rhonda Vincent: The reigning queen of bluegrass mandolin stops at the Palladium, with her outrageously great band The Rage, April 9.

John Sebastian: The singer/songwriter who gave voice to all those great Lovin’ Spoonful hits (“Rain on the Roof,” “Do You Believe in Magic,” “Daydream,” “Summer in the City”) performs April 10 at the Central Park Performing Arts Center in Largo.

The Weight: At the Palladium April 19, this group is so much more than a tribute to the great American band The Band. The Band had a convoluted history – although co-founder, guitarist and songwriter Robbie Roberston “broke them up” in the late 1970s, the others continued for quite a while without him. Both Jim Weider (guitar) and and Randy Ciarlante (drums) carried on with Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Rick Danko as The Band. Today, only Hudson survives, but he’s given The Weight his seal of approval.

Rosanne Cash: Johnny’s daughter has come a long way since her early ‘80s country/pop hits “Seven Year Ache,” “My Baby Thinks He’s a Train” and “Tennessee Flat Top Box”; she’s a brilliant songwriter and a disarmingly charming performer. At the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater April 26.

One Night of Queen: At the Mahaffey April 28. I haven’t spoken with him, but I expect Gary Mullen’s swaggering impersonation of Freddie Mercury is going great guns right about now, given all the recent big-screen success of Bohemian Rhapsody. The lanky Scotsman has been channeling Fred for a few years, and he and the Rage stop at the Mahaffey frequently. It’s an impressive, fun show.



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