Miami has historically been a tough draw for top musical artists, other than superstar DJs, for a few decades now. Blame it on geographical difficulties if you like (we're more than 600 miles from nearest musical hotbed Atlanta, for instance) or our notorious lack of support for live rock-music venues - but many bands seem to skip South Florida altogether, while making sure never to miss L.A., Chicago, Boston and New York.
But the times they are a-changin', thanks in large part to the Fillmore Miami Beach, which has fast become a desirable destination for many hip, popular groups, as evidenced by the venue's outstanding schedule for the upcoming week. Within the span of just five days starting Tuesday, the Fillmore hosts critically acclaimed alt-country band Wilco, a solo acoustic show by Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell, L.A. psych-metal band Jane's Addiction, and British dubstep DJ Rusko. It's a lineup that's equally diverse and cutting-edge - and along with recent stellar shows by Sting, Snow Patrol, Guns N' Roses and Lenny Kravitz, it's a welcome sign that rock just might not be dead in the Magic City.
"The room has been getting a reputation as a good place to play," said Brandon Berry, general manager of the Fillmore Miami Beach. "And as acts like Sting and Janet Jackson and Jane's Addiction come here, obviously more artists want to perform here who are fans of those artists. The musical touring world is also a very small world."
That world attracted Chris Cornell and his intimate show, which features only his voice and a guitar. "I won't go into a town if it doesn't have a venue that I think is appropriate for this," he said. "I mean, there's no point - it doesn't work in a bar atmosphere, and it's not a rock show. It is what it is, and it's much more appropriate in a theater where people can sit down."
Cornell - who's sure to perform Soundgarden hits such as "Spoonman" and "Black Hole Sun" as well as solo tunes - says he feels at once exhilarated and intimidated by appearing alone.
"It's very different. There's definitely more freedom in terms of not being anchored to anything," he said. "Just playing alone, I'm controlling essentially the tempo and the mood, the stops - I can do whatever I want. I can stop in the middle and talk. I can start any song at any time if it occurs to me. So there's that, and it's not possible to do with a group of people, or even one other person. It's a really different feeling."
Wilco is touring in support of its eighth studio album, "The Whole Love," which is so deliriously eclectic that critics' reviews sound like they're listening to different bands.
"I don't take too much of it very seriously, the positive or the negative," said Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy. "I cry, I wring my hands, I don't know [laughs]. The thing to really pay attention to is the relationship you have with an audience onstage."
Sometimes that relationship isn't clear, because Wilco's music often seems spontaneous, yet Tweedy contradicts that notion.
"I think everything is pretty composed," said Tweedy. "I don't think there's a lot of free-form jamming or improvisation in Wilco. There's room for things to be bent every night, and that's part of what makes the shows exciting and fun, but there's not what I would call straight-up jamming."
Speaking of jamming, the Fillmore also offers an ideal setting for Jane's Addiction's sexed-up theatrical shows that border on the burlesque.
"I guess it's the same thing that inspires every man and woman," said the always visionary frontman Perry Farrell, who founded the Lollapalooza alt-rock festival in 1990. "I like to present something that's compelling - it could be violent, it could be sexual, it could be loving. But it has to be compelling. Violence, sex, voyeurism - these are just powerful tools that you use to initially bring in an audience, and initiate them into other things, other concepts. That is pretty much the entrance level for most human beings, that area of sex and shock and violence."
Farrell is genuinely excited to put on a great show for Jane's Addiction fans, who can expect to hear hits such as "Jane Says," "Stop!" "Been Caught Stealing" and "Classic Girl," as well as tracks from the band's new album, "The Great Escape Artist."
"There's a lot of mediocrity, and I think that it's very hard these days to have a crowd enjoy themselves," he said. "I have personally not seen as of late very many live musical groups that are sonically great, but also theatrically great. And this is what we are striving for - this is what the plan is. We are the living, breathing, genuine article that is performing on a level of a play, but with the virtuosity of one of America's great groups. And I'm delighted to be a part of it, and I just wake up happy."
Wilco, Chris Cornell and Jane's Addiction play at Fillmore Miami Beach May 15-18