Bill Meredith

Pop season previews 2017-2018 story - Oct. issue of Palm Beach Arts Paper

The 2017-2018 season in South Florida pop music feels like a changing of the guard, since there aren't the usual megastar visits from Adele, U2, Madonna or Beyonce. Sure, there are the occasional predictable senior citizen stars in Ringo Starr, the Zombies, David Crosby, and The Time, all before the close of the year. But for the most part, perhaps as a signal that the generation of geezer rockers is slowly settling into its figurative rocking chairs, it's younger-generation bookings the likes of Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Kings of Leon, and The Killers.

The essential ingredients that fuel one of the world's greatest guitarists aren't a guitar pick, or finger-style playing, but a metal slide and a thumb pick. Rather than stand center-stage with a guitar strapped around his neck, 40-year-old Robert Randolph sings while seated behind a pedal steel guitar, the instrument mainly associated with country music, where foot pedals and the steel slide change pitches. The New Jersey native wasn't even aware that his instrument was capable of playing secular music until his teenage years, yet has wowed audiences since with his Family Band (vocalist Lenesha Randolph, drummer Marcus Randolph, guitarist/​keyboardist Bret Haas), blending elements of funk, blues, rock, soul, and "sacred steel," the style popularized in African-American Pentecoatal churches since the 1920s. Recording since his 2002 debut [i]Live at the Wetlands[i], and in a much bigger spotlight since opening for Eric Clapton on tour in 2004, Randolph is likely to showcase material from his latest release, the 2017 CD [i]Got Soul[i]. See Robert Randolph and the Family Band at 7 p.m. on Oct. 3 at the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale (954-564-1074, $25-$60).

Did Jack Johnson surf into 21st Century musical stardom by nature, or did he ride toward that end in Dave Matthews' wake? The likelihood is that he did a bit of both. The 42-year-old Hawaii native surfed professionally until a serious accident ended that career while he was still in his teens -- and inspired the future song "Drink the Water" (as opposed to the Dave Matthews Band's "Don't Drink the Water"). Like Matthews, Johnson sings while primarily playing acoustic guitars, although his direct early exposure came as the opening act for Ben Harper shows after the release of Johnson's 2001 debut, [i]Brushfire Fairytales[i]. Less powerful than Matthews' band, and overtly political than Harper's, Johnson leans more on love song themes, aquatic imagery, and eclecticism in live shows with band mates Merlo (guitars), Zach Gill (multiple instruments) and Adam Topol (drums). They're likely to perform material from Johnson's recently-released seventh CD, [i]All the Light Above It Too[i], including the lead single, "My Mind is For Sale." See Jack Johnson at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 5 at Perfect Vodka Ampitheatre, 601-7 Sansburys Way, West Palm Beach (561-795-8883, $64 + up).

In a world that's lost James Brown, Michael Jackson and Prince, Bruno Mars has become perhaps the biggest pop star in the world by combining the talent and charisma of all three. And though he'll only turn 32 years old on Oct. 8, the artist formerly known as Peter Gene Hernandez has particularly borrowed Prince's multi-instrumental, artistic-controlled aesthetic in crafting a soaring career in the mostly post-recording label era. Born into a musical family in Honolulu, Hawaii, Mars's formula during this decade has been light on CD releases (only [i]Doo-Wops & Hooligans[i] in 2010, [i]Unorthodox Jukebox[i] in 2012, and [i]24K Magic[i] in 2016) but heavy on touring and hit singles. Super Bowl halftime show performances in 2014 and 2016 also helped Mars' star rise, and chart-topping songs like "Locked Out of Heaven," "Treasure," "Just the Way You Are," "Uptown Funk" (as a guest with Mark Ronson), "24K Magic," "That's What I Like," and "Versace On the Floor" (his latest single and video) have already earned this young, still-rising artist a fistful of Grammy Awards. And counting. See Bruno Mars at 8 p.m. on Oct. 18 at American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami (786-777-1000, $122 + up).

Formed in Princeton, NJ in 1987, Blues Traveler achieved a slow ascent while assimilating the blues portion of its name into its natural rock and improvisational jam band elements. Its self-titled 1990 debut CD featured a new sound within the fledgling decade, one primarily based in vocalist and mercurial harmonica player John Popper's unorthodox phrasing as both a singer and instrumentalist. Guitarist Chan Kinchla, bassist Bobby Sheehan and drummer Brendan Hill rounded out the original quartet lineup as the group's star rose through its formation of the H.O.R.D.E. Festival (for "Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere") and eventual fourth album, [i]Four[i]. The 1994 release featured the chart-topping (and eventually Grammy-winning) single "Run-Around," and made the one-time garage band one of the top rock groups in America. Sheehan's death of an overdose in 1999 threw the group into a tailspin, but bassist Tad Kinchla (Chan's younger brother) and keyboardist Ben Wilson round out the current lineup on its "30th Anniversary Tour" and latest CD, 2015's [i]Blow Up the Moon[i]. See Blues Traveler at 7 p.m. on Oct. 21 at Revolution Live, 100 Nugent Ave., Fort Lauderdale (954-449-1025, $23.50).

Singer/​songwriters Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt are each major concert attractions on their own, but the two combining forces on a tour constitutes a special series of events. Lovett is the 59-year-old singer, guitarist, pianist and Houston native who's won multiple Grammy Awards for his country music stylings and quirkiness (often fronting his self-titled "Large Band," as opposed to a big band, as was the case with his 2007 CD [i]It's Not Big, It's Large[i]). Hiatt is the 65-year-old singer, guitarist, pianist and Indianapolis native who's best-known as a masterful roots music composer, his songs having been recorded by the likes of Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Three Dog Night, and Eric Clapton. Billed as "An Acoustic Evening with Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt," these shows are likely to feature material from Lovett's latest recording, [i]Release Me[i] (2012), plus Hiatt's latest, [i]Terms of My Surrender[i] (2014) -- as well as plenty of interaction and repartee between the masterful Texan and Midwestern songwriters. See Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt at 8 p.m. on Oct. 23 in the Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 S.W. 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale (954-462-0222, $39.50 + up).

When the power of a band's artistry becomes enough to override a silly, fictitious name from a Monty Python comedy sketch, you know it's accomplished something. California quartet Toad the Wet Sprocket took its moniker from the British troupe's "Rock Notes" skit about its "lead electric triangle" player. And while guitarist/​vocalists Glen Phillips and Todd Nichols, bassist vocalist Dean Dinning and drummer/​vocalist Randy Guss add singing multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Kingham for live shows, even his impressive list of talents (keyboards, rhythm and lap steel guitar, mandolin) doesn't include that instrument. Formed in the mid-1980s and recording since late that decade, Toad defied the grunge-dominant American rock scene of the 1990s by releasing the pop gem [i]Fear[i] in 1991, with its hits "All I Want" and "Walk on the Ocean." The subsequent [i]Dulcinea[i] (1994) was even better, a consistent power-pop masterpiece with hits like "Something's Always Wrong" and "Fall Down." Still sporting its original lineup, the quartet is likely to play those hits as well as material from it's latest release, [i]New Constellation[i] (2013). See Toad the Wet Sprocket at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 25 at the Culture Room ($35).

With his Black Crowes co-founding brother, singer Chris Robinson, based in California -- and leading his self-titled Brotherhood band, which leans more toward West Coast jam band elements -- guitarist/​vocalist Rich Robinson decided to up the ante last year. The Magpie Salute is a powerful 10-piece rock band with seven different instrumentalists and vocalists, including other former Black Crowes Marc Ford (guitar, vocals) and Sven Pipien (bass, vocals). Hyper-kinetic keyboardist Matt Slocum completes the players along with guitarist Nico Bereciartua, drummer Joe Magistro and percussionist/​vocalist John Hogg, and three backing vocalists (Charity White, Adrien Reju and Katrine Ottosen) round out the band's sound. The group's self-titled debut CD also features contributions from another former Black Crowes member, keyboardist Eddie Harsch, who died in November of 2016. And its set lists for shows can include originals from both Robinson's and Ford's solo albums, creative covers, and even some re-readings of Black Crowes classics (including "Wiser Time," from both that group's 1994 CD [i]Amorica[i] and the Magpie Salute's debut). See the Magpie Salute at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 at Revolution Live ($25.50).

Formed in Nashville and composed exclusively of family members, most of whom were raised within a family where their father was a Pentecostal preacher, the Kings of Leon have all the earmarks of a gospel or country music act. Somehow, they didn't get that memo. Brothers Caleb Followill (vocals/​guitar), Jared Followill (bass/​vocals) and Nathan Followill (drums/​percussion/​vocals) were mostly home-schooled in Oklahoma and Tennessee by their mother as the family traveled throughout the Southern United States for father Ivan Followill's sermon bookings. After their parents divorced in 1997, the brothers settled in the Nashville area, naming themselves the Kings of Leon after their grandfather in 1999 once cousin Matthew Followill (guitar/​vocals) completed the lineup. And the rocking band of 30-somethings has become one of the most popular American bands of the 21st Century since, beginning with its 2003 debut [i]Youth & Young Manhood[i], gaining worldwide recognition by its 2008 fourth CD, [i]Only By the Night[i] (with its raucous hit, "Sex on Fire"), and continuing through its latest release, [i]WALLS[i] (2016). See the Kings of Leon at 8 p.m. on Oct. 27 at Perfect Vodka Ampitheatre ($30 + up).

With age 64 in the rearview mirror for 75-year-old Fab Four bassist Paul McCartney, and drummer Ringo Starr now 77, who knows how many more chances they'll have to see either one perform again? As The Beatles' primary songwriter, McCartney has the ample catalog with which to tour as a solo act, but the artist formerly known as Richard Starkey has chosen a different route since 1989. His All-Starr Band has featured icons past (guitarists Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton, bassists Jack Bruce and Greg Lake, keyboardists Billy Preston and Edgar Winter) and present (multi-instrumental solo star Todd Rundgren, guitarist Steve Lukather from Toto, keyboardist Gregg Rolie from Santana and Journey, drummer Gregg Bissonette from David Lee Roth and Joe Satriani's bands). Bassist Richard Page and saxophonist Warren Ham round out recent lineups, and back Starr as he sings lead center-stage on solo hits from the early 1970s ("It Don't Come Easy," "Photograph," "You're Sixteen") through material from his new CD, [i]Give More Love[i]. See Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band at 8 p.m. on Nov. 7 and 8 at the Parker Playhouse, 707 N.E. 8th St., Fort Lauderdale (954-462-0222, $148-$423).

Like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, renowned rapper Jay-Z plays second fiddle to an even more famous celebrity wife. But unlike Brady's, international fashion model Gisele Bundchen, Brooklyn-born Shawn Corey Carter's wife Beyonce is in the same profession, and the union of those two vocalists makes them [i]the[i] couple in the music business. And make no mistake, Jay-Z is as much a businessman as an MC. Now 47 years old, he was raised in Brooklyn's notorious Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, and sold his CDs out of his car when he couldn't get a record deal in the mid-1990s. But his acclaimed 1996 independent debut, [i]Reasonable Doubt[i], led to a deal with Def Jam Records and his 1997 major label debut, [i]In My Lifetime, Vol. 1[i], produced by Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs. Jay-Z hasn't had to look back since, having helped launch clothing lines, video games, record labels, and CDs including his latest, [i]4:44[i] (2017). Married to Beyonce since 2008, he's also helped to produce three children, whose parents have been listed as the most powerful and top-earning couples in entertainment by both [i]TIME[i] and [i]Forbes[i]. See Jay-Z at 8 p.m. on Nov. 12 at American Airlines Arena ($35.50 + up).

With her theatrics, nickname, and garish costumes, it may be easy to view Lady Gaga as a musical flake. But scratch the surface, and you find substance within the 31-year-old singer/​songwriter from Manhattan, born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. Not content to simply be a vocalist, she's also played piano since age 4 and written songs since her early teens. In so doing, she shows the influence of Queen singer and pianist Freddie Mercury, plus Elton John, along with more modern inspirations like Madonna and Beyonce. It's an experiment that proved instantly successful, beginning with Lady Gaga's dance-pop style on her 2008 debut [i]The Fame[i]. The subsequent [i]Born This Way[i] (2011) earned her an even more massive audience, with its title track becoming an anthem for the LGBTQ community (especially after the formation of her anti-bullying non-profit, the Born This Way Foundation). A 2014 CD with ageless crooner Tony Bennett, [i]Cheek To Cheek[i], roped in even more new fans, as have acting appearances on [i]American Horror Story[i], her latest release [i]Joanne[i] (2016), and a 2017 Super Bowl halftime appearance. See Lady Gaga at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 30 at American Airlines Arena ($64 + up).

If thoughts of Miami-launched popular music acts turn toward the sugary dance material of KC & the Sunshine Band and Miami Sound Machine, The Mavericks can provide music with fiber. A unique mix of rockabilly, country and Latin influences, the quartet formed in 1989 within Miami's alternative rock scene, and often shared bills with Marilyn Manson. Nashville producer Tony Brown noticed how the unorthodox band stood out, and signing with MCA Records jump-started The Mavericks' fledgling career. Their 1992 major-label debut [i]From Hell To Paradise[i] yielded four Top 40 hits on the country charts; their third CD, [i]Music For All Occasions[i] (1995), earned them a Grammy Award for "Best Country Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocal" for the song "Here Comes the Rain." Charismatic lead vocalist Raul Malo took a break between 2004 and 2012 to release six solo CDs, but he and drummer Paul Deakin have remained from the original lineup since, along with guitarist Eddie Perez and keyboardist/​vocalist Jerry Dale McFadden. All are present on The Mavericks' latest release, the 2017 CD [i]Brand New Day[i]. See The Mavericks at 8 p.m. on Dec. 1 at the Parker Playhouse ($34.50-$44.50).

Los Angeles is practically the undisputed champion in producing popular music acts with worldwide recognition, so in the lineage of The Doors and Van Halen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Incubus, Weezer can mistakenly come across as an afterthought. Led by vocalist/​guitarist Rivers Cuomo, Weezer formed in 1992, and its color-coded discs started with the self-titled 1994 debut that became known as "The Blue Album." Hits like the poppy "Buddy Holly" and slogging "Say It Ain't So" gained notoriety as much for their videos as for radio airplay. The group's third release, also self-titled (a.k.a. "The Green Album"), featured the rocking "Hash Pipe," which became a huge hit despite Geffen Records' reluctance to release it as a single because of its title. Still featuring original members Cuomo, guitarist/​keyboardist/​vocalist Brian Bell and drummer Patrick Wilson, plus bassist/​vocalist Scott Shriner since 2001, Weezer is likely to play those songs and material from its latest two releases, 2016's white [i]Weezer[i] CD and the brand-new [i]Pacific Daydream[i]. See Weezer at 7 p.m. on Dec. 2 at the Riptide Music Festival, 1100 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale (877-877-7677, $60-$100).

Prince reigned over funk music through the fledgling video era of the 1980s, mostly with his band The Revolution. But in fact, the late funk royal recruited a better all-around band in 1981 -- fellow Minneapolis act The Time -- under his contract with Warner Bros. That's largely because of the talent Prince culled from the area R&B band Flyte Tyme: keyboardists Jimmy Jam and Monte Moir, and the iconic rhythm section of bassist Terry Lewis and drummer Jellybean Johnson. To top it off, Prince put a childhood friend named Morris Day out front, and his vocal talents and oversized personality also stood out on early releases [i]The Time[i] (1981) and [i]What Time Is It?[i] (1982). By Prince's 1984 rock biopic [i]Purple Rain[i], the rivalry between the two groups spilled over onscreen, where The Time's performances of hits like "Jungle Love" and "The Bird" equaled Prince's. The group's 1984 release [i]Ice Cream Castles[i] featured both songs, yet preceded the first of several breakups as Day embarked on a solo career. Day, Moir and Johnson remain from the lineup that was one of the top live funk acts of the '80s and beyond. See The Time perform a tribute to Prince at 3 p.m. on Dec. 3 at the Riptide Music Festival ($60-$100).

Even if the most notable thing that singer, songwriter and political liberal David Crosby has done recently was get into a musical across-the-aisle war of words with his conservative alter-ego, singer, guitarist and cross-bow hunting enthusiast Ted Nugent, the 76-year-old Los Angeles native's composition "Deja Vu" usurps "Cat Scratch Fever" any day. A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee with both The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, the vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist also participated in some of the finest vocal harmonies in popular music history, especially with partners Stephen Stills and Graham Nash (and occasionally Neil Young as well). When the trio appeared at Woodstock before Young first joined them later in 1969, it was only its second-ever live performance. Like all of his CSNY band mates, Crosby has a lengthy, though hardly prolific, solo career -- he recorded the first four albums under his own name between 1971 and 1995. In his 70s, though, he's been much more active. Recent releases include [i]Croz[i] (2014), [i]Lighthouse[i] (2016), and his latest, this year's [i]Sky Trails[i]. See David Crosby at 8 p.m. on Dec. 7 at the Parker Playhouse ($51.50 + up).

There may be no more polarizing pop star in the world than singer Katy Perry. Being equally revered and reviled by both listeners and critics hasn't impacted her success, though, as more than 100 million records sold proves. It didn't start out that way. Born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson in Santa Barbara, CA, Perry (who turns 33 on Oct. 25) had parents who were both Pentecostal pastors. She released a gospel debut, [i]Katy Hudson[i], in 2001 before going in the opposite direction. Perry's 2008 pop debut, [i]One of the Boys[i], gained her decidedly non-sacred notoriety in the hit "I Kissed a Girl," starting her chain of incredible sales figures despite the fact that she's only released three CDs since. [i]Teenage Dream[i] (2010) featured Perry scantily-clad on its cover, helping its sales along with the disco-infused single "Firework," while [i]Prism[i] (2013) featured a more modest cover head shot and a more anthemic hit single, "Roar." Also part of the celebrity couple brigade (a short marriage to actor Russell Brand in 2010-2011, and relationship with singer/​songwriter John Mayer after), Perry's latest release is [i]Witness[i] (2017). See Katy Perry at 7 p.m. on Dec. 20 at American Airlines Arena ($46.50 + up).

Even the venerable Rolling Stones, who formed in 1962, can't claim a 60-year anniversary anytime soon. Fellow British veterans The Zombies can, though. Formed in 1958 by singer Colin Blunstone and keyboardist/​vocalist Rod Argent, the group is actually touring to promote the 50th anniversary of its most successful album, [i]Odessey and Oracle[i], from 1968. Ranked at number 100 on [i]Rolling Stone[i] magazine's list of the 500 greatest all-time rock albums, The Zombies' sophomore effort produced one of their biggest hits, "Time of the Season" (the other, "She's Not There," was on their self-titled 1965 debut). Yet unlike the Stones, arguably a nostalgia act since their last viable effort, 1981's [i]Tattoo You[i], The Zombies have recordings from this century that stand on their own legs. The latest two, [i]iBreathe Out, Breathe In[i] (2011) and [i]Still Got That Hunger[i] (2015), showcase the modern instrument sounds of Argent, guitarist Tom Toomey, bassist Jim Rodford, and drummer Steve Rodford. For this tour, Blunstone and Argent are joined by fellow surviving original members Chris White (bass, vocals) and Hugh Grundy (drums). See The Zombies at 8 p.m. on Jan. 9 at the Parker Playhouse ($47.50-$148).

Seventy-five-year-old vocalist Art Garfunkel's solo recording career is eclipsed by both the solo career and famed 1956-1970 duo with singer and guitarist Paul Simon, yet the Queens, NY native has ventured further than Simon as an additional actor, poet and author. Simon & Garfunkel actually performed under the name Tom & Jerry during their first several years together before becoming one of the top popular music duos of all-time starting in 1963. Inspired by the Everly Brothers, yet lacking their singing prowess, the two leaned heavily on the two-part vocal harmonies of Simon's unspectacular, lower-pitched voice and the non-vibrato, upper tenor delivery of Garfunkel, influenced by being part of an a cappella group at Columbia University. Garfunkel's solo career started in 1973 with his debut [i]Angel Clare[i], bookended by his latest, [i]Some Enchanted Evening[i] (2007). His acting career began with director Mike Nichols' films [i]Catch-22[i] (1970) and [i]Carnal Knowledge[i] (1971) and has extended through films and television in 2011. The latest Garfunkel release is his new autobiography [i]What Is All But Luminous[i], published in September. See Art Garfunkel at 8 p.m. on Jan. 18 at the Parker Playhouse ($42.50).

Born in Los Angeles and raised singing in a church choir as a minister's daughter in San Antonio, TX, 76-year-old Darlene Wright learned how to harmonize long before she adopted the stage name Darlene Love and recorded her breakthrough hit single, "He's a Rebel," in 1962. Yet if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, ranked 84th in [i]Rolling Stone[i]'s "100 Greatest Singers" list, flies under the radar, it's largely because most of her recordings have been as a backing vocalist. Working with producer Phil Spector in the 1950s and 1960s, Love's all-female vocal group The Blossoms recorded with everyone from Elvis Presley to Sam Cooke to Frank Sinatra. Taking a break to raise a family in the 1970s, she returned as much an actress as a singer in subsequent decades, appearing in Broadway productions ([i]Grease[i], [i]Hairspray[i]) as well as in all four [i]Lethal Weapon[i] films. An acclaimed 2013 documentary on backing vocalists, [i]20 Feet from Stardom[i], brought Love into her long-overdue current spotlight. See Darlene Love at 8 p.m. on Jan. 20 at the Parker Playhouse ($37.50-$57.50), and at 6 and 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 22 at the Lyric Theater, 59 S.W. Flagler Ave., Stuart ($55, 772-286-7827).

Many popular touring acts go to Las Vegas to perform during the golden-years downward spiral of their fading careers. The Killers decided to reverse that trend. Its seeds were planted by singer, bassist, keyboardist and Nevada native Brandon Flowers in 2001, when he answered an ad posted by guitarist/​vocalist Dave Keuning, who'd moved to Las Vegas from Iowa. After a few personnel shifts, The Killers started living up to their name by solidifying the lineup with current bassist/​guitarist/​vocalist Mark Stoermer and drummer/​percussionist Ronnie Vannucci Jr. in 2002. Gaining renown for their melodic, post-alternative rock sound in the United Kingdom before America, the quartet released its 2004 debut [i]Hot Fuss[i] on the UK label Lizard King Records, and started its first headlining tour in Europe. Now one of the most popular groups worldwide, The Killers have since capitalized via touring and videos in the mostly post-recording label era with sparse releases ([i]Sam's Town[i] in 2006, [i]Day & Age[i] in 2008, [i]Battle Born[i] in 2012, and the new [i]Wonderful Wonderful[i], with its hit single and video, "The Man"). See The Killers at 8 p.m. on Jan. 23 at American Airlines Arena ($31 + up).

Selected Works

Story
One of the more creative and successful South Florida singer/songwriters of this young century, and likely the most successful ever from Lake Worth, John Ralston gives the area a last double hurrah before moving to North Carolina -- a brand-new album, 'IV,' and a going-away album release show on Dec. 7 at Voltaire in downtown West Palm Beach, FL.
Without as many classic rock stars as usual, and with newer, younger acts like Kings of Leon, Bruno Mars, and The Killers, the 2017-2018 season in South Florida pop music feels like a long-expected changing of the guard.
From the expected suspects (the Marsalis brothers, trumpeter Chris Botti) to rising stars (Gregory Porter, Jon Batiste) and female instrumentalists (Jane Bunnett, Anat Cohen), the 2017-2018 season in South Florida jazz is as a strong as usual and higher in unpredictability.