As we near the year's end and the winter holiday season, the lineup of concert tours and music festivals will start to slow down, but not entirely — in fact, some of the biggest concerts of the year locally are still set to take place before 2022 comes to a close.
It all starts this weekend with the return of Bradenton Blues Festival, Sarasota-Manatee's biggest annual music festival, along with a headlining concert by one of Tampa Bay's biggest musical success stories in recent years and alternative rock radio station 97X's annual music fest Next Big Thing. Other area radio stations will throw their own end-of-year concerts, including US 103.5's Country Jam and 93.3 FLZ's Jingle Ball, with the latter kicking off a whole weekend of live music at Tampa's Amalie Arena.
Here are the 10 biggest concerts and music festivals set to visit Tampa Bay and Sarasota-Manatee in December, presented in chronological order. Event details are subject to change.
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Bradenton Blues Festival
Friday-Sunday; Bradenton Riverwalk; bradentonbluesfestival.org
The 11th annual music festival featuring national and international names in the blues returns this weekend to its longtime home of Bradenton Riverwalk, after taking place at nearby LECOM Park the last two years due to the pandemic. Serbia-born blues guitarist/singer Ana Popovic will headline Saturday's main concert along with other musicians including blues-rock favorites Mike Zito and Florida's own Albert Castiglia, who will perform separate sets then together as the Blood Brothers.
The weekend's festivities will also include a Friday concert featuring acts such as Louisiana's Dikki Du and the Zydeco Krewe and Australian-American harmonica/didgeridoo player Peter Harper, and a Blues Brunch Sunday at Mattison's Riverwalk Grille featuring Kansas-based band Dustin Arbuckle and the Damnations. Numerous Blues Festival performers will also play headlining shows at local venues.
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97X Next Big Thing
Saturday-Sunday; MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, Tampa; livenation.com
Tampa Bay alternative rock station 97X's annual music festival returns this weekend, taking place over two days at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre. Machine Gun Kelly, who made a successful switch from rap to pop-punk with his 2020 No. 1 album "Tickets to My Downfall" and just earned a Best Rock Album Grammy nomination for this year's follow-up "Mainstream Sellout," will top the bill Saturday.
Meanwhile, Jack White — who rose to fame in the 2000s as lead singer and guitarist of The White Stripes before a solo career that includes releasing the pair of albums "Fear of the Dawn" and "Entering Heaven Alive" this year — will headline Sunday. He'll be joined by several other performers including another acclaimed '00s rock act, French group Phoenix, who recently released their latest album "Alpha Zulu."
Sunday; Yuengling Center, Tampa; yuenglingcenter.com
Florida has proven fertile territory for successful rap musicians in recent years, including the Tampa Bay area, home to artists such as Doechii, the first woman rapper signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, and Jagjaguwar-signed hip-hop duo They Hate Change. Yet the biggest success story has been St. Pete's Rod Wave, who's earned back-to-back No. 1 albums with 2021's "SoulFly" and this year's "Beautiful Mind," each showcasing his style of melancholy, R&B-infused rap.
Despite his national success, Rod Wave — who used to play The Hall in Palmetto and has name-dropped Sarasota in his music — continues to show his home region love, playing MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre last year. Now he returns to Tampa to headline Yuengling Center, joined by fellow rapper Toosii and singer Mariah the Scientist.
US 103.5 Country Jam
Wednesday; Hard Rock Event Center, Tampa; seminolehardrocktampa.com
Tampa Bay country music radio station US 103.5 will also throw an end-of-year concert at Hard Rock Event Center, with a portion of proceeds benefiting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Headlining the event will be Grand Ole Opry-inducted, Grammy-nominated performer Chris Young, who's had around a dozen No. 1 country airplay hits over his career, most recently last year's "Famous Friends" and "At the End of a Bar."
The latter song's guest artist Mitchell Tenpenny, who has his own No. 2 country airplay singles "Drunk Me" and "Truth About You" to his name, will also perform at the concert. Country singer/rapper Jelly Roll ("Son of a Sinner") and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Elle King ("Ex's & Oh's") round out the lineup.
Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Evening
Dec. 9; Hard Rock Event Center
Set to visit Hard Rock Event Center the same week as US 103.5 Country Jam will be drummer Jason Bonham with his Led Zeppelin Evening show. (Both concerts are apparently hot tickets as well; the two shows were sold out as of press time.)
Bonham is the son of legendary late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, following in his father's footsteps from an early age and frequently paying tribute to his dad's band, including performing "Stairway to Heaven" alongside Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson during the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors, where Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones were among the honorees. Bonham also plays drums in numerous bands, including Sammy Hagar and the Circle.
Dec. 13 and 15; Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater; rutheckerdhall.com
The King of the Movie Soundtrack, Kenny Loggins visits Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall for two nights of shows. He earned his title for film theme songs such as "I'm Alright" from the 1980 Florida-filmed comedy "Caddyshack," the Oscar-nominated title track to 1984's "Footloose," and "Danger Zone" from 1986's "Top Gun," which had a prominent appearance in this year's hit sequel "Top Gun: Maverick" as well.
Loggins has also had hit songs outside the film world including "This is It," co-written with Michael McDonald, with the two also penning Song of the Year Grammy winner "What a Fool Believes." Can't make either of these shows? You'll have another chance to catch Loggins live in concert locally soon, as he was just announced as the headliner for the Inspiration Gala at Sarasota's Van Wezel on March 10.
93.3 FLZ's Jingle Ball
Dec. 16; Amalie Arena, Tampa; amaliearena.com
iHeartRadio's annual holiday concert Jingle Ball, represented locally by radio station 93.3 FLZ, regularly features some of the biggest names in contemporary pop, with musicians such as Lizzo and Shawn Mendes performing in recent years. Yet this year's lineup has a bit more of a throwback feel, with two of the most popular acts in '90s and '00s music at the top of the bill.
Backstreet Boys, the Orlando-formed boy band behind hits such as "I Want It That Way" and "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" that's also released No. 1 albums as recently as 2019's "DNA," headline this year. The lineup also includes pop-rap group Black Eyed Peas, known for hits including "I Gotta Feeling" and "Where is the Love?" and who just released their latest album "Elevation."
R&B Music Experience
Dec. 17; Amalie Arena
Speaking of throwback, Amalie Arena will host this concert featuring some of the biggest names in 1990s and 2000s R&B music the night after Jingle Ball. Girl group Xscape, who had numerous Top 10 hits in the '90s including "Who Can I Run To" and "Just Kickin' It," will the top the bill along with Bell Biv DeVoe, best known for their No. 3 hit "Poison" off their multi-platinum 1990 album of the same name.
Also on the lineup is Ginuwine, the R&B singer known for his hit 1996 song "Pony" that had a resurgence in popularity when it appeared in the Tampa Bay-set and shot 2012 film "Magic Mike" and its 2015 sequel. Raheem DeVaughn, Tamar Braxton, 112, H-Town and Next are also set to perform.
Dec. 18; Amalie Arena
Amalie Arena's full weekend of concerts culminates with two shows by Trans-Siberian Orchestra, arguably the biggest Christmas onstage production locally. The rock group originates from Tampa, founded in 1996 by Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli of heavy metal band Savatage, along with Robert Kinkel and the late producer Paul O'Neill.
Since their formation, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has released multiple Christmas-themed albums that have gone multi-platinum, such as 1996's "Christmas Eve and Other Stories" and 2004's "The Lost Christmas Eve," along with non-holiday themed albums. Pitrelli leads a roster of musicians on this “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve — The Best of TSO and More" tour.
Dec. 31; The Ritz Ybor, Tampa; theritzybor.com
If you're looking to ring in the new year with a concert, the biggest New Year's Eve show announced thus far locally looks to be Italian DJ, producer and remixer Benny Benassi headlining The Ritz Ybor. Benassi's accolades include winning a Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical Grammy for his 2007 remix of the Public Enemy classic "Bring the Noise" and making DJ Magazine's Top 100 DJs list numerous years.
Benassi continues to collaborate with and remix songs by other musicians, such as South Korean girl group TWICE, and onetime Florida tourism ambassador Pitbull and DJ IAmChino recently. Not an electronic music fan? Other New Year's Eve shows set to take place in Tampa Bay include funk group Lettuce at St. Pete's Jannus Live.
Email entertainment reporter Jimmy Geurts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism by subscribing.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Top December concerts, music festivals Tampa Bay, Sarasota-Bradenton