One of the first popular music shows of the 2021-2022 South Florida concert season was scheduled to be by Dead & Company this week. The group canceled, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s been a long, strange trip to get here over the past two years.
The COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head in the middle of the 2019-2020 season, altering both the second half of it and the entire, abbreviated 2020-2021 slate of concerts. Area shows, tours, and in the case of veteran artists like Ozzy Osbourne, entire touring careers were jettisoned in favor of health precautions.
Hopefully, the viral delta variant will recede and allow the current season to continue as planned, rather than create a bad trip through a series of unwanted flashbacks.
For a group that rarely performed live for two decades because of stage fright, namely that of lead-singing keyboardist Donald Fagen, Steely Dan certainly came out of its shell in 1993. That’s when Fagen and since-deceased co-founding guitarist Walter Becker (1950-2017) embarked on an American tour, during which they recorded a stellar 1995 album, Live in America. The two had founded the band in 1971 as students at Bard College in New York, and went on to produce iconic albums that fused rock, jazz, pop, and their combined sense of sarcasm like Aja (1977) and The Royal Scam (1976). For its Absolutely Normal Tour, Fagen has concocted shows featuring both these albums in their entirety (they were performed Oct. 5 and 6, respectively), plus the 1980 release Gaucho (Oct. 8) and recent live disc Northeast Corridor (Oct. 9). Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees in 2001, the band’s musicians have always been top-shelf, but Fagen’s wit, musicality, and vocal range, as always, will be the focal points. See Steely Dan at 8 p.m. Oct. 8 and 9 at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach (305-673-7300, $41.50-$256.50).
Call it a case of hometown boy makes good. With modern hip-hop separated into the disparate smooth R&B and hard-core gangster camps, Miami Carol City Senior High School graduate Rick Ross has clearly leaned more toward the latter since starting his recording career with the 2006 debut Port of Miami (and its mega-hit single “Hustlin’”). Yet the artist originally known as William Leonard Roberts II chose a stage name that sounds more like an actual moniker than a title for a vacuous video game, even if he’s lived the role through the stereotypes of being the victim of an attempted drive-by shooting and having a feud with fellow rapper 50 Cent. On the Feed the Streetz Tour, he’ll be joined on stage by other stars including Lil’ Kim, 2 Chainz, Jeezy, Gucci Mane, and Fabolous. And attendees can expect tracks from his 10th album, the long-awaited 2019 follow-up Port of Miami 2, and his latest, this year’s Richer Than I’ve Ever Been. Rick Ross at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at the BB&T Center. 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise (954-835-7000, $106-$851).
As recent YouTube and TikTok spoofs point out, most modern country music is actually pop cloaked in lyrics about beer, trucks, women in tight jeans, and patriotism. But Alabama-launched group Little Big Town is more than a little different from that pack. The quartet of singers Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, and Jimi Westbrook, plus vocalist/guitarist Philip Sweet, has remained intact since the act’s 1998 inception. And unlike most artists in all popular music genres, this quartet is essentially a vocal group that features combined harmonies, with all four singers taking turns as lead singers, rather than a singular front person. See Little Big Town at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at Hard Rock Live, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood (954-327-7625, $79-$920).
Now in its 45th year, British band Psychedelic Furs has practically become the long-term poster child for the post-punk movement. Led throughout by 65-year-old lead singer Richard Butler and 62-year-old bassist/brother Tim Butler, the band formed in 1977 with three since-departed members, but gelled through the 1980s. Having chosen its psychedelic moniker to distance itself from the London punk scene, the band climbed the UK album chart with its self-titled 1980 debut, and made an initial splash in America with its sophomore release, Talk Talk Talk (1981). The Butler brothers decided to go in different musical directions for most of the 1990s, but reunited the Furs in 2000. See the Psychedelic Furs at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at Revolution Live, 100 Nugent Ave., Fort Lauderdale (954-449-1025, $52-$209).
Either of the two headliners might have sold out the BB&T Center alone, but two purveyors of the sensitive California folk-rock sound of the 1970s uniting for one show certainly qualifies as a major event. Seventy-three-year-old, Boston-born singer/songwriter and guitarist James Taylor eventually relocated to the West Coast after misadventures through both New York City and London, and secured his legacy in 1970 with a hit sophomore album (Sweet Baby James) and single (“Fire and Rain,” with lyrics about those misadventures). Seventy-three-year-old singer/songwriter and guitarist Jackson Browne likewise migrated to Los Angeles after being born in Germany, where his military father was stationed. Browne was also dominant through the 1970s, with hits like “Doctor My Eyes,” “Running on Empty,” and “The Pretender.” See James Taylor and Jackson Browne at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at the BB&T Center ($156-$1,377).
For the first time in several generations, one of the world’s premier big bands, a term associated with jazz, doesn’t fit into that genre. But the Tedeschi Trucks Band doesn’t, in fact, fit comfortably into any genre, traversing blues, rock, pop, jazz, gospel, country, and world music by design. Which makes sense, given that its married band-leading guitarists are Susan Tedeschi (also its soaring lead singer), who studied at the ever-open-minded Berklee College of Music in Boston, and Derek Trucks, who played with his drumming uncle Butch Trucks in the lengthy final incarnation of the Allman Brothers Band, the legendary Georgia-based act that usurped all other Southern rock groups by dipping its toes into numerous musical styles between 1969 and 2014. The Grammy-winning TTB formed in 2010, with Tedschi bringing drummer Tyler Greenwell from her band and Trucks vocalist Mike Mattison from his. See the Tedeschi Trucks Band at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11 in Dreyfoos Hall at the Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach (800-572-8471, $44-$124).
Like Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, singing keyboardist Bruce Hornsby rose to pop stardom with a heavy undercurrent of jazz training, appreciation, and nuance. Now 66 years old, the Virginia-born Hornsby has also gone in several other musical directions in what proved to be a late-blooming career after studying music at the University of Richmond, Berklee College of Music in Boston, and the University of Miami (where he earned his degree in 1977). His three Grammy Awards hint at that versatility — “Best New Artist” in 1987, “Best Bluegrass Recording” for “The Valley Road” in 1990, and “Best Pop Instrumental Performance” for “Barcelona Mona” in 1994. Hornsby didn’t start his solo recording career until 1986, but did it in a big way with his debut The Way It Is, the breezy, jazz-influenced title song of which topped the pop charts. Since then, he’s collaborated with bluegrass icons (Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby, 2007), jazz luminaries (Camp Meeting, with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Jack DeJohnette, 2007), and released last year’s Non-Secure Connection. Hornsby’s additional Nov. 13 show at the Lyric Theatre in Stuart is sold out. See Bruce Hornsby at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at Wells Hall at the Parker Playhouse, 707 NE 8th St., Fort Lauderdale (954-462-0222, $37.50-$132.50)
Seventy-two-year-old British keyboardist Rick Wakeman rose to prominence as a session musician (recording with David Bowie, T. Rex, Cat Stevens, and Elton John), then as a member of the progressive rock band Yes, replacing original member Tony Kaye in 1971. And his flamboyant, theatrical style of playing and wardrobe, which included wearing capes, immediately made an impact. Yes’ 1972 release Fragile featured the hit “Roundabout,” highlighted by his Hammond organ solo. Always humorous, he’ll follow up the successful The Grumpy Old Rock Star Tour of 2019 with The Even Grumpier Old Rock Star Tour, a set of tales and solo acoustic piano performances. See Rick Wakeman at 8 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center, 201 SW 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale (954-462-0222, $39.50-$264.50).
When an artist’s own website addresses him as “one of the world’s greatest guitarists” and a “blues titan,” you know that artist isn’t lacking in ego. Or, thankfully in the case of singing guitarist Joe Bonamassa, talent. The 44-year-old native of New Hartford, NY started as a child prodigy, opening for B.B. King in a series of tour stops at age 12. Bonamassa’s 2000 debut, A New Day Yesterday, featured a cover of the song of the same name by Jethro Tull, a guest appearance by Gregg Allman on the original composition “If Heartaches Were Nickels,” and production by Tom Dowd (whose previous credits included Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and the Allman Brothers Band). Bonamassa has since arguably become the blues/rock guitar successor to Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990), and has cited both SRV and Jimi Hendrix among his American influences. Yet his blues authenticity has been criticized because of the influence of European guitar heroes (Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page) over American icons like B.B., Albert, and Freddie King, Robert Johnson, and John Lee Hooker. Bonamassa’s latest album, this year’s Time Clocks, splits the difference between his stateside blues and overseas rock nuances. See Joe Bonamassa at 8 p.m. Dec. 12 at Hard Rock Live ($75-$582.50).
Hailing from Houma, La., where he still maintains his own recording studio, 53-year-old singer, songwriter and blues guitarist Tab Benoit is the real deal. His formative years as a performing artist were spent at the Blues Box nightclub in nearby Baton Rouge, where he developed a rich vocal delivery influenced by soul music titan Otis Redding, and Benoit’s guitar tone is an authentic blues return to basics. While most electric guitarists in all genres employ effects, Benoit only features his stock 1972 Fender Telecaster Thinline model, a Category 5 amplifier, and a guitar cord. Album titles over his near-30-year recording career, like Wetlands (2002) and Power of the Ponchairtrain (2007), hint at his further authenticity as creator of the 2003 coastal preservation organization “Voice of the Wetlands.” And the versatile artist is also a multi-instrumentalist. One of his latest recordings is the 2019 Benoit-produced album Let Go of the Reins, by South Florida-based singing blues guitarist J.P. Soars. Recorded at Benoit’s studio in Louisiana, and released on his Whiskey Bayou recording label, it features the singing guitarist instead playing drums in a trio rounded out by bassist Chris Peet. See Tab Benoit at 8 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Suite 70, Fort Lauderdale (954-564-1074, $34.50-$65).
On August 27, 1990, blues singer/guitarist Robert Cray played at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wis., with fellow singing six-stringers Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and his older brother Jimmie Vaughan. For the younger Vaughan, it would be his last performance at age 35, preceding his death that evening in a helicopter crash along with two flight crew and two members of Clapton’s entourage. Cray had charted an unlikely course toward blues stardom during the 1980s, a decade otherwise dominated by the vapid pop stars presented in MTV and VH1 music videos. Born into a military family in 1953 in Columbus, Ga., while his father was stationed at Fort Benning, his career developed slowly, even after he was cast as a member of the band Otis Day & the Knights in the hit 1978 comedy film Animal House. It wasn’t until his fourth album in 1986 (Strong Persuader, with its hit “Smoking Gun”) that he climbed the charts and won the first of his five Grammy Awards. Cray’s latest release is last year’s That’s What I Heard, which also displays his powerful and soulful vocals and an authentic, minimalist blues playing style that displays elements of influences like Albert Collins, Freddie King, and John Lee Hooker. See the Robert Cray Band at 8 p.m. Jan. 29 at Wells Hall ($83-$435).
It’s a pairing of one of the all-time underrated Los Angeles bands and one of music’s all-time iconoclasts. Like the City of Angels’ overlooked punk/ska/rock/funk offering Fishbone, its rock/Tex-Mex/zydeco/R&B offshoot Los Lobos has been a must-see live act and recording artist for several decades. Its current principals date back to 1973, when singing guitarist David Hidalgo met drummer Louie Perez in East L.A. Guitarist/vocalist Cesar Rosas and bassist/vocalist Conrad Lozano soon joined; saxophonist Steve Berlin rounded out the current lineup a decade later. The group then scored a hit with its 1987 cover of Richie Valens’ “La Bamba,” and produced landmark albums from Kiko (1992) through this year’s Native Sons. Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Henry St. Claire Fredericks Jr. is as enigmatic as his stage nickname of Taj Mahal indicates, having started his multi-faceted recording career in 1968. The Harlem-born singing guitarist, pianist, banjo and harmonica player has always infused his blues base with elements of gospel, country, reggae and world music, and the latest of his three Grammy Awards is for “Best Contemporary Blues Album” for TajMo, (2017), with fellow singer/multi-instrumentalist Keb Mo.’ See Los Lobos and Taj Mahal at 8 p.m. Feb. 9 at Wells Hall ($96-$603).
Seventy-five-year-old Irish vocal icon Van Morrison’s latest newsworthy nostalgia act has been as an outspoken critic of vaccinations against the COVID-19 pandemic. Such is the state of nostalgia touring, but for all the talk of his legendary status, is it deserved? Morrison first rose to fame with the Irish band un-creatively named Them, riding the wave of its middling hit single “Gloria” while hanging out with The Doors’ Jim Morrison. As a solo recording artist, Morrison’s first hit was the overplayed “Brown Eyed Girl,” and the title track to his 1970 album Moondance followed suit. That release featured a couple of classics in “And It Stoned Me” and “Into the Mystic,” but for practically every one of those, there’s been an unlistenable hit like the title track to his 1978 disc Wavelength. For all the talk of Morrison’s “blue-eyed soul,” it could be argued that it’s been 40-plus years of riding the coattails of his time-honored, warbling, nasal vocal delivery ever since. Morrison’s legions of diehard fans will disagree, and it’ll be most of them in attendance and deciding for themselves while requesting those predictable hits. See Van Morrison at 8 p.m. Feb. 12 at Hard Rock Live ($105-$496).
You may not have heard of The Immediate Family, but it’s safe to say that you probably have the recorded work of one or more of its members in your music catalog. Or at least have heard more than one in passing. The studio titans, who released a self-titled debut in August, consist of singing guitarists Danny Kortchmar, Waddy Wachtell and Steve Postell, bassist Leland Sklar, and drummer Russ Kunkel. Collectively, their recording and touring credits include James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Billy Cobham, Keith Richards, Carole King, Don Henley, Billy Joel, Warren Zevon, Phil Collins, Neil Young, Ravi Shankar, and hundreds more. See The Immediate Family at 6 and 9 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Funky Biscuit, 303 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton (561-395-2929, $50-$75), and 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at Sport of Kings Theatre at Gulfstream Park, 901 S. Federal Hwy., Hallandale Beach (954-454-7000, $35-$75).
Texas-born guitarists and singers are expected to play the blues like Freddie King, rock like ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, or combine the two styles like Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Yet Austin-born Eric Johnson has taken it a few steps further since his aptly-titled 1986 debut, Tones. Now 67 years old, Johnson’s subsequent 1990 release, Ah Via Musicom, eventually went platinum on the strength of his brilliant instrumental hit “Cliffs of Dover,” which won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. That Irish-influenced gem announced to the world that this Texas guitarist was not cut from standard Lone Star State cloth, as evidenced by his blues and rock influences being balanced by stars in both jazz (Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery) and country (Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed). Ever the perfectionist, Johnson delayed the subsequent 1996 release Venus Isle by nitpicking it, but wowed audiences with material from it during the guitar-centric G3 Tour later that year with fellow six-stringers Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. His yearn for perfection has resulted in only eight album releases in the 25 years since, but Johnson’s one-of-a-kind touch, taste, technique, ideas, and warm singing voice are always a live treat. See Eric Johnson at 8 p.m. March 19 at the Amaturo Theater ($81-$156).
When guitarist and singer/songwriter John Mayer appeared on stage with Double Trouble, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band of keyboardist Reese Wynans, bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton, for its 2015 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he did so alongside other notable guitarists Gary Clark Jr., Doyle Bramhall and Jimmie Vaughan (Stevie’s brother). And on a performance of “Texas Flood,” the slow blues standard by Larry Davis that had become part of SRV’s repertoire, Mayer absolutely nailed the late guitarist’s biting tone, phrasing, and speed in a solo that had the other participants smiling and the crowd erupting. But such guitar heroism is only part of the 44-year-old’s arsenal. His latest CD, this year’s 1980s-influenced Sob Rock, recalls the early pop of his 2001 debut Room for Squares — before a middle-career period that had him working in a Double Trouble-influenced blues/rock trio with bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordan. Since 2015, Mayer has added jam band status to his list of capabilities by essentially taking on the Jerry Garcia role in the post-Grateful Dead alumni act Dead & Company, with longtime Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. See John Mayer at 7:30 p.m. April 2 at the BB&T Center ($75-$4,157).
What do you call a Missouri act that plays like a three-piece version of vintage Aerosmith; sings like Crosby, Stills & Nash, and features spiritual lyrics and an out-of-the-closet, six-foot-five, left-handed, African-American lead-singing bassist? King’s X (vocalist/bassist Doug Pinnick, guitarist/vocalist Ty Tabor, and drummer/vocalist Jerry Gaskill) seemed out of place after relocating to the Texas blues hotbed of Houston and releasing its 1988 debut Out of the Silent Planet. The critically acclaimed concept disc Gretchen Goes To Nebraska followed in 1989, and the trio proved a dangerous opening act during concerts by headliners from classic rock (Cheap Trick, Living Colour, Billy Squier) to metal (Anthrax, Testament, Overkill). The trio’s unorthodox mix of gospel-inspired three-part harmonies with metallic instrumental undertones may not be for everyone, but it certainly makes it inimitable. See King’s X at 8 p.m. April 16 at the Crest Theatre, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach (561-342-7922, $30 + up).