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College Football Playoff: Performers, celebrity fans to watch out for in Tampa for national championship game

With the field for this year’s College Football Playoff National Championship now set — Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Washington — it’s time to turn our attention to all the action that’s about to unfold here in Tampa.

The days leading up to the Jan. 9 game at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium are going to be filled with concerts, events and celebrity appearances. It’s not the Super Bowl, but between all the celebrity fans and A-list performers dropping by, it might feel a little like it.

We already know about Playoff Playlist Live!, the three-night concert festival unfolding for free in Curtis Hixon Park. The lineup includes Eric Paslay, the Shadowboxers and Clare Dunn on Jan. 6; Flo Rida, Cold War Kids and Rachel Platten on Jan. 7; and Usher, Gavin DeGraw, Jamie N Commons and Jay Pharoah on Jan. 8. Click here for details on those shows.

Beyond that, the star power is a little unknown — but we can take some educated guesses.Full Story

Review: The 1975 shakes up a new alternative movement at 97X Next Big Thing in Tampa

At some point during the 1975’s headlining set at Saturday’s 97X Next Big Thing festival in Tampa, amid all the screams and shrieks and bold neon lights and crisp songs that felt time-warped from 1989, it all became clear.

This was a pop show. It’s the end of 2016, and Next Big Thing has gone pop.

Sixteen years in, judging from the lineup of funk-pop, alt-country and glitchy electro put forth this year by 97X, it’s harder than ever to spot the lines dividing the Top 40 and what the station calls "your new alternative.”

Gone was almost every trace of the angsty, screamy guitar rock (think My Chemical Romance, Rise Against or the Used) that for so long defined Next Big Thing. In its place at Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre was a genre-melding party that tried to bring all the feels without all the fury, proving that you can, in 2016, spell alternative without the letters R-A-N-T. Welcome to the new subculture! Help yourself to a neon coozie!

Just to be clear: This isn’t a bad thing. True, Next Big Thing ’16 drew a smaller crowd than 2015’s sold-out affair with headliners Twenty One Pilots, but its lineup felt fresh and stylistically diverse, with several artists playing Tampa Bay for the first time. The 1975 are one of the year’s breakout bands, the Head and the Heart’s All We Ever Knew is currently the No. 1 alternative song in the country, and several other acts are poised for big years in 2017. It’s good music.

But is it alternative music? Full Story

A track-by-track review of the Hamilton Mixtape

For Hamilton fans, Friday's release of the Hamilton Mixtape was like having parents who really don't know how to hide gifts. It's not your fault your mom left everything in wide open Bed, Bath & Beyond bags with the closet door ajar. You have to check out your new Miracle Foam Bathtime Barbie, even though it makes Christmas Day less exciting.

Leading up to the release, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda was like that, but more strategically, I'm sure. He released a handful of songs from the anticipated album, which reimagines the music of Hamilton through stars of hip-hop, R&B, pop and even comedy. Miranda is great at giving fans what they want, while doing some pretty savvy carrot dangling in the process.

I was the very nerdy kid on Christmas. I listened to two of the tracks as he dropped them early, then decided to stop. I would wait until Dec. 2 and partake of the entire experience like a giant holiday feast of roast quail and trimmings. Bring me my chalice of fruit wine, I am very busy and plump!

Herewith, a brief song-by-song review of the tracks based on a first listen, with an edge given to original song versus new version. …

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Kurt Vile coming to the Ritz Ybor in Tampa

Tampa's indie rock scene just got a cool new show for 2017.

Kurt Vile and the Violators are performing at the Ritz Ybor on Feb. 1, it was announced Friday. This marks the first big-time local show for the Philadelphia singer-guitarist and his band, whose albums Wakin on a Pretty Daze and b'lieve I'm goin down... have received widespread critical acclaim.

Like the Ritz's 2015 show by Vile's ex-bandmates the War on Drugs, this one will attract a slew of curious hipsters eager to check out Vile's shaggy but evocative guitar work, which has drawn comparisons to Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. He recently teamed with Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval for the dreamy single Let Me Get There.

Tickets to the show go on sale at noon Monday. Click here for details.

-- Jay Cridlin

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I was a seat-filler at Barbra Streisand's Tampa concert. Here's what it was like

The last thing I expected to do Wednesday night was count the pores on Barbra Streisand's face.

Just kidding. There are no pores. She's flawless. But for just a few minutes, some lucky friends and I did get that close.

Of course, I'd wanted to go to her show at Tampa's Amalie Arena. It was the first and -- you never know -- maybe last show she'll ever do here. She's an absolute legend who rarely tours. But with tickets starting at $99 and going into four figures, it wasn't realistic. I spent the morning coordinating coverage of the event with our pop music/culture critic, Jay Cridlin, and sighed at the experience he would surely have.

REVIEW: Barbra Streisand delivers a half century of hits at Tampa's Amalie Arena

Then, I got this group G-chat from a friend.

"Would y'all like to be seat fillers at Barbra tonight?"

I blinked a few times. Seat filler? At BARBRA? What did this even mean? We here in the arts and entertainment side of the newsroom had never really heard of a local concert having seat fillers. …

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Review: Barbra Streisand delivers a half century of hits at Tampa's Amalie Arena

Each note brought sighs of reverie, each lovelorn lyric oohs and ahhs and applause.

All Barbra Streisand had to do was smile and sing, and the sold-out crowd at Tampa’s Amalie Arena was a big bowl of buttah in her palms.

“I’ve never been here, never been to Tampa-St. Pete,” Babs admitted Wednesday night, as if the nearly 12,000 fans in attendance didn’t know.

This was Stresiand’s first local concert after a half century as a stage and screen icon, and given her notorious aversion to touring, there’s no reason to think she’ll ever be back, giving the night a historic, once-in-a-lifetime feel. It certainly must’ve felt that way to the floor-seaters who’d shelled out four figures to bear witness.

Streisand, 74, with an armory of Hollywood awards to her name, delivered a set that covered the arc of her music and film career from ingénue to icon, Miss Marmelstein to Roz Focker. In between songs she showed photos, told stories, rolled film clips, and even made a little coffee talk with her long-suffering Florida fans.

The Salvador Dali Museum? She’s been to Dali’s actual house, but sure, that sounded fun, too. “I would love to go there, just to say, ‘Hello, Dali!’” …

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SoundBytes: Jay Leno, Mike Epps, Devendra Banhart, Michael Franti, Rick Astley and more

- Catching up on a slew of recent concert announcements, and let's start with some big-time comedy. Former Tonight Show host Jay Leno will perform at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota on Jan. 13; click here for details. Comic and actor Mike Epps will headline the Festival of Laughs at the USF Sun Dome on March 11, alongside Sommore, Bruce Bruce, Arnez J and Felipe Esparza. Tickets are $55.75 and up; click here. And Scotch-swilling Texas bon vivant Ron White will perform at the Mahaffey Theater on April 28. Tickets are $47.75 and up. Click here.

-- Yes isn't letting the death of bassist and sole remaining founder Chris Squire stop them from touring. The prog-rock legends will perform at the Mahaffey Theater on Feb. 11. Tickets are $49.50 and up. Click here.

-- Clearwater's Capitol Theatre just announced several interesting shows: Guitarist Doyle Bramhall II on Jan. 20 ($25 and up, click here), former Queensryche singer Geoff Tate in an acoustic show on Jan. 24 ($25 and up, click here), '80s pop star Rick Astley on Feb. 6 ($35 and up, click here) and Vine superstar Hayes Grier on Feb. 15 ($29.50 and up, click here). …

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Niykee Heaton cancels next week's concert at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa

Tampa fans will have to wait a little longer for a dose of Niykee Heaton in their lives.

The singer and model has canceled her Dec. 7 concert at the Ritz Ybor "due to scheduling conflicts," the venue announced on Facebook. "Refunds will be available for all purchased tickets."

The singer, who originally found fame on YouTube, kicked off her Centerfold Tour in October; this was to be her first headlining show in Tampa.

-- Jay Cridlin

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Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals coming to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg

Ben Harper's brand of sunny, soulful pop-rock might not be the festival-headlining draw it was half a decade ago, when sunny folk-slingers like Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson ruled the earth.

Still: Harper hasn't toured in Tampa Bay since around 2011, which makes his just-announced show here a nice New Year's treat.

Harper and his band the Innocent Criminals will bring their new spring tour to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg on May 2. Pre-sale tickets are on sale now for $38.50 and up; tickets go on sale to the public on Friday. Click here for details.

-- Jay Cridlin

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Rachel Platten added to free College Football Playoff concert series at Tampa's Curtis Hixon Park

What's a little college football without a good Fight Song?

Rachel Platten has been added to Tampa's free "Playoff Playlist Live!" concert series at Curtis Hixon Park on Jan. 6-8, leading up to the College Football Playoff's national championship on Jan. 9 at Raymond James Stadium. She'll join Usher, Flo Rida, Cold War Kids and Eric Paslay for the free shows. The complete lineup by day:

Jan. 6: Eric Paslay, the Shadowboxers, Clare Dunn

Jan. 7: Flo Rida, Cold War Kids, Rachel Platten

Jan. 8: Usher, Gavin DeGraw, Jamie N Commons and host Jay Pharoah

For Platten, the gig continues a year-plus of high visibility thanks to her gigantic hit Fight Song, which was prominently featured in Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Interestingly, this will be Platten's second sports-related free concert in Tampa Bay in the span of four months -- she recently played a free postgame concert for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in St. Petersburg.

All the shows in Curtis Hixon Park are free and open to the public. Click here for details.

-- Jay Cridlin

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Neil Diamond coming to Amalie Arena in Tampa

Neil Diamond is in the middle of a big publicity push for his new holiday album Acoustic Christmas. But don't expect to hear any of it when he comes to Tampa next spring.

The legendary singer-songwriter will bring a new tour celebrating 50 years in the music business to Tampa's Amalie Arena on April 23, the venue announced today. Christmas music in April would be a little weird, no? Regardless, you'll no doubt hear many of his biggest hits, including America, Cherry Cherry and Sweet Caroline. It'll be his first concert in Tampa since 2012.

Ticket prices have not yet been announced, but they'll go on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 9. Click here for details.

-- Jay Cridlin

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For King and Country added to 2017 Strawberry Festival lineup

Did you miss For King and Country at the USF Sun Dome on Tuesday? Good news: They'll be back in our area pretty soon.

The Grammy-winning Christian duo will headline opening night of the Florida Strawberry Festival on March 2, it was announced Wednesday. Reserved tickets are $25, though as always, there are a couple of thousand free seats available on a first come, first served basis.

For King and Country joins a pretty stacked lineup for the 2017 Strawberry Fest, including Willie Nelson, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, the Blues Brothers, Jennifer Nettles, Elle King, Patti LaBelle, 3 Doors Down and many more.

Click here for all the details on the Strawberry Festival.

-- Jay Cridlin

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Hangout Music Fest lineup: Frank Ocean, Mumford and Sons, Twenty One Pilots and more

Frank Ocean is coming ... um ... near Florida!

The acclaimed but reclusive R&B singer is among the headliners of the 2017 Hangout Music Fest, which sits just across the Florida-Alabama border in Gulf Shores, Ala., and takes place May 19-21. But that's only one element worth getting excited about, as Hangout has secured yet another big-time lineup top to bottom.

Mumford and Sons, Twenty One Pilots, Chance the Rapper, Sigur Ros, Major Lazer, Weezer, MGMT, DJ Snake, Band of Horses, ASAP Ferg, Dillon Francis, Franz Ferdinand, Charli XCX, the Head and the Heart, Lukas Graham, Tory Lanez, Lil Yachty, Local Natives, Young the Giant, Mutemath, Marshmello, Mac DeMarco, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Warpaint and many, many more are on the bill. Click here for the lineup.

Three-day tickets start at $249 and go on sale at 11 a.m. Thursday. VIP tickets start at $1,099.

Click here for all the details on Hangout 2017.

-- Jay Cridlin

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Melissa Etheridge talks about political fear, rock cruises, her favorite Christmas songs and more

Many see these as dark times for our nation and world. Melissa Etheridge knows it. She hears it from fans all the time.

And at the end of 2016, she’s here to tell you it’s not as bad as you think.

“After going through chemotherapy, nothing is as bad as chemotherapy,” the 55-year-old rocker said in a recent phone interview. “We always have an opportunity to be our best, and to make the choices that make this world a better place. This shift is an amazing opportunity for growth and for people to come together and feel what oneness, what peace, really is.”

That’s the spirit behind Etheridge’s new holiday tour, which hits the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg on Thursday (click here). Performing with a trio, the Grammy- and Oscar-winning songwriter will mix some of her biggest hits (Come to My Window, I’m the Only One) and intimate cuts (perhaps Pulse, her tribute song written in the wake of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting) in alongside holiday songs from her 2008 album A New Thought For Christmas, which she said was inspired by the general spirituality of the winter solstice. …

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Cyber Monday ticket deals on concerts at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Straz Center, Mahaffey Theater and more

Cyber Monday is here, and with it comes an array of concert ticket deals around Tampa Bay and beyond -- especially at the area's three biggest performing arts halls. Let's run them down:

Ruth Eckerd Hall and the Capitol Theater: Through midnight, save 50 percent on concerts and productions including Donny and Marie Osmond (Dec. 6), Peter White (Dec. 8), Martina McBride (Dec. 9), John Tesh (Dec. 11), Garrison Keillor (Dec. 12), Jackie Evancho (Dec. 20), Bret Michaels (Dec. 29), Butch Trucks Freight Train Band (Dec. 31), Los Lobos (Jan. 14), Michael Bolton (Jan. 17), Tom Segura (Jan. 22), Adam Trent the Futurist (Jan. 29), Gladys Knight (Jan. 30), Boz Scaggs and Robert Cray (Feb. 1), Gallagher (Feb. 3), Dennis DeYoung (Feb. 24), Paul Anka (March 12), Kristin Chenoweth (March 13), Michael Amante (March 19), Carrot Top (March 22), Jim Brickman (April 1), Little River Band and Firefall (April 8) and more, incluing stage productions like Kinky Boots and The Nutcracker. Click here for details. …

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