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The month of April in the arts: Elton, bookended

Bill DeYoung



Elton John's first bay area appearance: May 28, 1971 at Tampa's Curtis Hixon Hall. Photo by Rick Norcross.


Elton John swears he’s on his last tour, ever, which means that his Amalie Arena concert April 24 will be his final onstage appearance in Tampa Bay.

That show will mark just under 51 years since the British pop music legend pounded the piano keys on a local stage for the first time.

Onstage at Curtis Hixon in ’71. Photo: Rick Norcross.

The date was May 28, 1971, and Elton was on his first cross-country American tour. He’d played a few select dates the previous year, as his second album, Elton John, and its single “Your Song” were scaling the U.S. charts. He was 24 years old.

By the time he hit Tampa on that balmy Friday evening in May, he had put out two more long-players: The country-flavored Tumbleweed Connection and the live set 11-17-70.

The concert took place at the old Curtis Hixon Hall. Elton’s band at the time consisted of bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson.

In a rambling next-day review, Terry Dunham of the St. Petersburg Times described the scene: “There goes the piano stool across the stage again … John’s on his knees, pounding the piano harder … now he’s on the auditorium floor, to shake hands with two handicapped fans, his and the crowd’s brothers and sisters in wheelchairs … back onstage, he keeps atop his piano, dances there, wiggles his can towards the crowd … leaps off … there’s that grin again … more pounding, pounding.”

April 27 brings more English rock ‘n’ roll icons to Amalie, as Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey – still touring as The Who – make their semi-regular area appearance.

It would appear that he concert industry is back in full flex, as Amalie Arena also has John Mayer (April 5), Justin Bieber (April 9), Bon Jovi (April 15), the contemporary editions of Journey and Toto (April 20).

At the Seminole Hard Rock Event Center, country’s Jamey Johnson checks in April 7, followed by Counting Crows (April 26) and Jacksonville’s own Limp Bizkit (April 28).

With original lead singe Ian Astbury still out front, British hard rockers The Cult return to the Mahaffey Theater April 24.

Singer/songwriter Beth Hart is in concert at the Mahaffey April 27.

Ruth Eckerd Hall was the first bay area concert venue to bring live shows back once the pandemic seemed to be approaching the rear-view mirror. Not surprisingly, the April schedule at Ruth’s big hall (REH) and at the sister venue, the Capitol Theatre, is pretty full:

April 5: The Zombies (with Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone (Cap)

April 5: Postmodern Jukebox (REH)

April 6: Henry Rollins (Cap)

April 8: Kenny G (Cap)

April 9: Larry Fleet (Cap)

April 9: Kristin Chenowith (REH)

April 10: Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Fabian (REH)

April 10: Jon Anderson (of Yes) with Paul Green (Cap)

April 15: Don Felder (ex-Eagles) (Cap)

April 20 and 21: Van Morrison (REH)

April 21: Colin Hay (Cap)

April 22: Steve Hackett (ex-Genesis) (Cap)

April 22: Diana Krall (REH)

April 23: The Piano Guys (REH)

April 27: Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn (Cap)


Theaters and art museums

American Stage’s long-delayed production of the musical Footloose finally appears this month; directed and choreographed by Shain Stroff, the show begins a monthlong run at Demens Landing Park (that’s outdoors, on a specially-built stage) April 6.

Opening April 9 at the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art is a joint exhibition of the works of two American masters of landscape photography, Ansel Adams (The Masterworks) and Clyde Butcher (America the Beautiful).

The Museum of Fine Arts St Petersburg debuts Women’s Work: A Survey of Female Photographers April 16.

Actors Ned Averill-Snell and Roxanne Fay will be at the Dali Museum April 18 to present Jeffrey Hatcher’s drama A Picasso.

My Fair Lady is the next touring Broadway show to visit the Straz Center (opening April 26).


The classics

The Florida Orchestra schedule for April looks something like this (well, it looks exactly like this): Broadway Pops April 8-10 (Straz, Mahaffey, Ruth Eckerd); Vienna 1921, a chamber music concert April 23 at the Palladium; Superhero Concerts (music from Batman, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man et cetera), April 29-May 1 (Straz, Mahaffey, Ruth Eckerd). Plus the regular weekday morning coffee concerts.

Singers from St. Petersburg Opera Company have a “Popera” concert, Tavern Songs, April 21-24 at Cage Brewing. It’s a program of drinking and toasting songs from Carmen, La Traviata, Les Misérables, Die Fledermaus, Sweeney Todd and the like.

Opera Tampa is in Ferguson Hall, at the Straz Center, April 22 through 24 with a pairing of the one-act operas Gianni Schicchi and Cavalleria Rusticana. The Florida Orchestra provides the music.


Festivals and other events

April 8 and 9 brings the Tampa Bay Blues Festival to Vinoy Park. Among the performers: JJ Grey & Mofro, Jimmie Vaughan, Larkin Poe, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Eric Gales, Samantha Fish, Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters, The Nick Moss Band ft. Dennis Gruenling, Mindi Abair, Ronnie Baker Brooks and many more.

David Amram, a musician, poet and longtime associate of literary legend Jack Kerouac, will appear April 8 at the Side Door, the Palladium Theater’s cabaret room, playing piano with a small jazz combo, as bay area actor Jim Sorenson reads Kerouac’s words. Amram will also tell stories and answer questions.

The annual Beacon Dance show at the Palladium is April 29.

Last but never least, the 2022 Sunscreen Film Festival happens April 28-May 1.


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