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Shevonne and The Force to play Mahaffey Plaza show

Bill DeYoung



Shevonne Philidor (center) and The Force. Photo provided.

If you’ve watched Life’s Rewards, the Visit St. Pete/Clearwater-produced Amazon series shot at the Don Cesar and other scenic locations around town, you’ve been under the musical spell of Shevonne Philidor.

Remember the scene in which Jarod (Jarod Wofford) brings a down-in-the-dumps Dan (Sebastian Rocha) to hear live music, insisting it will make him feel better?

Filmed at the Hideaway, the scene introduced Shevonne and The Force, with Philidor out front on vocals and rhythm guitar, singing and playing a sexy, sinewy blues under muted red stage lights, Andrew Warren’s jazzy lead guitar punctuating the undulating emotions in the song.

And Dan immediately feels the love in the room.

Philidor has that effect on people – real people, too, not just fictional TV characters. She is a vocalist with a dynamic range, a songwriter with complex influences, and one of the bay area’s most unique talents.

Shevonne and The Force perform Saturday for Pride on the Plaza, a free concert on the outdoor greenspace between the Mahaffey Theater and the Dali Museum.

The Pride Month celebration, starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, is headlined both nights by the rhythm ‘n’ blues band the Black Honkeys. Friday’s support act is The Torpedoes.

Philidor, who landed in Tampa in 1999, has been performing since she was 5, belting out “I Believe I Can Fly” in a kindergarten talent show, wearing a bird costume sewn by her mother.

It was the first but by no means the last talent show for Shevonne, who appeared on America’s Got Talent, America’s Most Talented Kids and American Idol. “I’ve just been working hard my whole life,” she says, “and my mom’s been right there, supporting me.”

She was 8 when the family arrived in Tampa, and already seasoned enough to join the Entertainment Revue, the “professional song and dance ensemble” that groomed young girls for showbiz, through music and dance training, and performances at public and commissioned events. Rehearsals every Sunday, 60 shows a year.

As a single mother raising two girls, mom couldn’t pay for guitar lessons – so Shevonne Philidor taught herself to play.

“The reason I picked up the guitar is because my favorite musician of all time played the guitar,” she explains. “I love Prince.

“Once I started venturing more into the sound of the guitar, I started listening to guitar players like Stevie Ray Vaughan. That was where the blues side came in.

“I started playing jams and stuff with some of the other local guys, just going to blues jams and learning how to play. So I kind of learned on the stage.”

Philidor looks back on her TV talent shows as … well, a learning experience. She’s not the same person she was then.

“Being young, and entering into something like that, straight up you have a lot of hopes,” she explains. “Your ambitions are high: ‘I’m going to be famous!’ I was very enthusiastic. Come to find out, you realize that it’s a TV show at the end of the day. It’s not a talent show.

“It was a big slap in the face, for a little bit. It’s like, what do they say, a bitter pill to swallow. It’s like one of those situations. But my takeaway from it, because I’ve been on them so many times at this point, is I learned to just not care. You know what I’m saying’? Just to be myself.”

She made connections, she made friends, but she never actually won, and it was not particularly fun. “I think it’s one of those things that’s made me who I am today,” she says. “Extremely strong, and I don’t give a f–k.”

Along with Philidor and Warren, The Force includes Julian Carrington (keys), Devon Gilbert (bass) and Davon Emmanuel (drums).

“In 2010, I started Shevonne and the Force. But the night of my first show, the guitar player that I had canceled on me. That night. My mentor at the time, John Blackwell – he was the drummer for Prince for about 13 years – he said ‘I know this guy. I’m going to call him up.’ He did, and that was Andrew Warren, who’s still the lead guitarist in my band. He’s also related to Berry Gordy, which is pretty cool!

“Through Andrew, I met the whole rest of my band. And we’ve been together ever since.”

More about Shevonne Philidor here.










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