Michael Bolton brings diverse crowd to Busch Gardens

Michael and Sam Fly, his duet partner for the tour.

By Brent Michael, Rock At Night Tampa Correspondent

Venue: Busch Gardens Wine and Food Festival Concert Series, Tampa, Florida. Sunday, March 25, 2018

When you say the name “Michael Bolton,” most people think only of his recent – as in late 1980s on – music, which has been called schlock, blue-eyed soul. selling out, and sappy elevator music, and a few worse things. Many don’t know Bolton originally performed in the hard rock and heavy metal genres from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, both on his early solo albums and those he recorded as the frontman of the band Blackjack. He only became better known for his series of pop rock ballads after a stylistic change in the late 1980s. Say what you will, but it’s hard to argue with success: Bolton’s achievements include selling more than 75 million records, recording eight top 10 albums and two number-one singles on the Billboard charts, as well as winning six American Music Awards and two Grammy Awards. It’s hard to imagine having that kind of success singing for Black Sabbath, whose vocalist he once auditioned to be. I’m betting that’s one rejection he is thankful for!

Bolton’s audience is like a cross-section of America, I saw people from young to old in the crowd, I saw multiple ethnicities, and what surprised me the most, I saw several men by themselves! Not just for a few minutes while their wives/girlfriends/daughters/mothers went off, but for the whole show. And the comment I overheard from one, after Bolton’s sojourn into the audience for “When a Man Loves a Woman,” went “He’s a GOD!”

It’s also the first time I’ve ever seen an artist who is considered a “solo artist” turn over the stage to his band, primarily his sax player, and let them do two songs all on their own. It goes to show that, even as a name star, Bolton hasn’t let the fame go to his head. Michael became a viral sensation in The Lonely Island’s Emmy nominated video, “Captain Jack Sparrow” that launched on Saturday Night Live and has racked up over 160 million views on YouTube, has appeared in movies and on TV, but still retains that “hey, I’m just one of the guys” demeanor.

It certainly paid off it crowd response. People were singing along, clapping, and in general having a great time as he reeled off hits of his own that others recorded, like his first breakout composition “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” to songs he wrote that hit it big, such as “Go the Distance” from the movie Hercules introduced with a cute anecdote about how he first thought they called on him to play the title character (sure he did!) and classic favorites like “Georgia on My Mind.

Michael tours worldwide, so you never can tell when he’ll make it to your neck of the woods, but if he does, go see him! You won’t regret it.

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Brent Michael

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