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The weekend in music: ‘Hey, I know that drummer’

Bill DeYoung



The Lords of 52nd Street. Liberty DeVitto is third from left.

Semi-regular area visitor Dave Mason (“We Just Disagree,” “Only You Know and I Know”)  is back at Ruth Eckerd Hall Saturday – and the great Steve Cropper, a Stax Records legend and cornerstone member of Booker T & the MG’s (and, of course, the Blues Brothers), is in his band this time around.

OK, now take a good look at the opening act: Despite the name and the set list, Lords of 52nd Street is not exactly a Billy Joel tribute act, even though they’ll be playing only BJ tunes: The core of the group is the great drummer Liberty DeVitto, multi-instrumentalist Richie Cannata and guitarist Russell Javors. Together, these guys played every track on every Joel album from the classic Turnstiles through the underrated The Nylon Curtain, helping to forge a sound we all know and love.

DeVitto, however, outlasted the others, remaining at Joel’s side for a whopping 30 years. They parted ways, unharmoniously, in 2006, after which the drummer sued Joel for what he described as unpaid royalties. The case was settled (for an undisclosed amount) in 2010.

In the 2017 documentary Hired Gun, DeVitto discusses the creative input he had on many of Joel’s classic tunes. Still, he says in the film, “If I saw Billy I’d go up to him and hug him and tell him I love him. If he called me up and said, ‘I’m sorry. Do you want to play again?’ I’d say yeah.”

And Jerry Marotta, who performs at the Hideaway Cafe Saturday night as member of the New York rock ‘n’ roll quartet Rock City Road, is in your record collection, too: Among his credits, this hardworking studio and road drummer played on every Peter Gabriel album between 1978 and 2004; Hall & Oates’ Voices and Private Eyes; eight Indigo Girls albums; records by Elvis Costello, Stevie Nicks, T-Bone Burnette, Tim Finn, Los Lobos, Robert Fripp, Orleans, 10,000 Maniacs, Tears For Fears, Dream Academy and many, many others.

Elsewhere in music

Yonder Mountain String Band

Et Cultura brings the Boulder-based progressive bluegrass outfit Yonder Mountain String Band to Jannus Live Friday (it’s a big ol’ bluegrass weekend, as Dailey & Vincent – we introduced them in a story earlier this week – will perform at the Palladium Monday).

Maestro Michael Francis conducts the Florida Orchestra Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater, accompanied by the Master Chorale of the Tampa Bay Women’s Choir. This program, centered around The Planets by Holst, is repeated Sunday evening at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. NASA has provided massive cosmic photographs for projection behind the orchestra.

As usual, the most impressive lineup of A-list (and B-list) musical stars is at Ruth Eckerd Hall, the venerable 2,100-seat venue on McMullen-Booth Road, along with its smaller, downtown venue the Capitol Theatre. Here’s what the weekend looks like: Jazz keyboard legend Herbie Hancock is at REH Friday; with Michael (“Not the guy from Office Space”) Bolton at the Cap the same night.

Mexican American rock ‘n’ roll greats Los Lobos (“Will the Wolf Survive,” “La Bamba” and the masterful Kiko album) are back in the area Saturday, at the Capitol Theatre. Sunday at REH, it’s The Golden Boys starring Frankie Avalon, Fabian, and Bobby Rydell. This particular show is a matinee, at 1 p.m., to allow the Florida Orchestra’s performance that evening.

Finally, the popular folky rocky California band Dawes plays the Capitol Sunday night.

Rockin’ with Ray

Mayor Rick Kriseman will be at Friday’s sold out event at thestudio@620, which has the somewhat cumbersome title of The Florida Legacy of “The Genius” Ray Charles. Kriseman will read a proclamation designating Feb. 15 at “Ray Charles Day” in St. Petersburg.

It’s well-known that the late, great rhythm ‘n’ blues singer spent a good deal of his first professional years in Florida, and specifically in the Tampa Bay area. This was in the 1940s and early ‘50s. It’s all documented in John Capouya’s excellent book Florida Soul.

One of Charles’ first recordings was an original song called St. Pete Florida Blues:

Along with Kriseman, Capouya will speak at Friday’s event, as will journalism professor Roy Peter Clark, who got this particular ball rolling. Charles’ music will be performed by an ad hoc band that includes NPR correspondent Eric Deggans, a Poynter Institute crony of Clark’s, on drums.

Again, it’s sold out. Hopefully you scored a ticket.

One last thing

The big news in pop music is, of course, Monday night’s Fleetwood Mac show at Amalie Arena in Tampa While I might be the world’s biggest fan of singer/songwriter Neil Finn, who’s tagging along singing Lindsey Buckingham’s parts on this tour, I’m of the opinion that it’s not Fleetwood Mac without Buckingham. And, of course, Mike Campbell, who spent 40 years in Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, is a fantastic guitarist. But together, I’m sorry, they don’t add up to Lindsey, who all but created the sound that made Fleetwood Mac great. The fact that he was unceremoniously booted out of the band, because Stevie Nicks “couldn’t work with him any longer,” says a lot about this tour and what its bottom line is (that’d be big money, and egos, and keeping Stevie happy). There. Rant over. I’m sure it’ll be a very enjoyable show.

Fleetwood Mac 2019, from left: Christine McVie, Neil Finn, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Mike Campbell and John McVie.






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1 Comment

1 Comment

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    Terry Moran

    February 15, 2019at1:45 am

    Interesting that Billy Joel has never publicly commented on what caused him to part ways with Liberty DeVitto.
    I know a few of the principals in Billy’s organization and their side of the story is much different than the ‘Hired Gun’ narrative.
    I suspect there is more to this than Liberty’s version of things.

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