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St. Pete’s weekend arts forecast: Music, with a chance of delight

Bill DeYoung



Pink Martini performs at the Mahaffey Theater Sunday.

As our friends across the bay are celebrating all things piratical with the annual Gasparilla Festival, life isn’t quite as … well, crazy here in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County. If that’s to your liking, read on – it’s another culturally-rich weekend, with a wide variety of impressive performance events in the offing.

The Florida Orchestra’s musical director and main man, Michael Francis, will be back at the podium in short order (the gala with pop singer Seal is coming up Feb. 9), but the orchestra isn’t cooling its jets this weekend – far from it. Friday night at the Mahaffey Theater, Brent Havens will conduct a TFO Pops concert celebrating the music of Florida’s late, great rock ‘n’ roll icon Tom Petty. New York vocalist (and The Voice contestant) Tony Vincent will be out front, singing (he also does “Music of David Bowie” symphony tours).

Saturday at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall, the orchestra will be onstage as the 1980 film The Empire Strikes Back is screened. John Williams’ classic, militaristic chest-pounding Star Wars music will be coming at the audience live along with the celluloid AT-ATs.  Lucas Richman conducts.


Rhythm ‘n’ blues legend Gladys Knight – she’s been Pips-less for several decades – is onstage at Ruth Eckerd Hall Friday night; across Clearwater at Ruth’s smaller venue, the Capitol Theatre, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and master musicians Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady perform a Hot Tuna acoustic show on the same night.

Other notables up Clearwater way: Comedian, game show host and legendary germophobe Howie Mandel plays the Capitol Theater tonight (Thursday, Jan. 24); the ‘90s band Fastball (“The Way”) performs at the free Blast Friday show, Friday in the Cleveland Street District (bay area favorites the Black Honkeys open at 5:30 p.m.); The Capitol’s got Air Supply Saturday and Crash Test Dummies Sunday, while America appears at Ruth Eckerd Hall Sunday.

Tonight at thestudio@620: An Evening of Percussive Resonance, percussion chamber music featuring the New York percussion duo W2 – of the Cisum Percussion collective – and St. Petersburg’s Andrea Tafelski, a singer, percussionist and composer.


Tafelski is a recent graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music (a BFA in percussion and timpani performance). From her website: “She utilizes the orchestral percussion training she gained there to create a unique visual and aural experience for audiences. Her new album of marimba based original songs Knocking on Wood is set to be released in 2019”).

As discussed at length in our January arts preview, folksinger Melanie is onstage Friday at the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center. The show is, however, sold out.

Pink Martini, returning to St. Pete for a Sunday show at the Mahaffey, is a wonderfully eclectic little cocktail-jazz lounge orchestra which focuses on multi-lingual, international music and lesser-known American chestnuts, all served up with a nod and a wink. They’re clever and they’re cute, and under the direction of pianist, arranger and master of ceremonies Thomas Lauderdale, they’re a solid-gold hoot. Lead vocalist China Forbes is brilliant and mesmerizing.

The majority of today’s professional opera singers have backgrounds in musical theater, and often work in “regular” shows as well as opera (indeed, it’s all part of being considered vocally versatile), and members of the upcoming St. Petersburg Opera Company production will demonstrate those skills Saturday. It’s SPO’s semi-annual Broadway Cabaret, at Opera Central on 1st Avenue South. Performers from Kiss Me, Kate (Feb. 2-10 at the Palladium) will sing favorites from decades of Broadway smashes, in an intimate cabaret setting (tables with candles, beer, wine, coffee etc. included in the ticket price).

Sunday afternoon at the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art, explore the American West as seen through the eyes (and songs) of Tin Pan Alley. We’ll Build a Sweet Little Nest: The West in Popular Songs features music scholar Michael Lasser, and musicians Cindy Miller and Alan Jones,  combining singing, stories and a bit of history about such iconic songwriters as Irving Berlin and George Gershwin, from ragtime to swing to balladry and beyond. The 2 p.m. show is included with museum admission.

Don’t forget, both American Stage and freeFall Theater are opening their first shows of 2019 this week. Get all the details here.



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