Best Concerts of 2023

Live music soared in 2023.

In a departure from our usual best of list, we asked lots of fans to give us their choices for their favorite concerts of the year.

DJ Kaigem: King Gizzard at The Salt Shed, Chicago – June 11, 2023

The strangest and most fascinating live acts in the world took a cosmic leap forward in Chicago this year.  King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are known for their live shows, with a unique setlist every night, captivating visual graphics, motif-driven jams, and playing from a kaleidoscope of genres.  They don’t fit the typical model of jam bands, who usually pad out songs with extended, self-indulgent soloing.  Instead, every member plays an equal role in the band, and jams are focused around fleshing out riffs and creating new melodies, as well as calling back to their other songs.

King Gizzard at the Salt Shed – June 11, 2023

This past tour in the US and Europe, King Gizzard have shown tremendous growth in their improvisational skills, with no show more pivotal than Chicago.  The night before their first of three concerts, Stu Mackenzie took the rest of the band to see Dead and Co at Wrigley Field.  That first night, King Gizzard played “The River”, a track already known for its long jams, and took it to a whole new space.  After several scorching minutes of thrash-jazz, the beat melted away entirely and the song opened up into a Dark Star stylized exploration, before later coalescing back into the main song.

“The River” was followed up with three more long jams: “Evil Death Roll”, “Magma”, and “Boogieman Sam” featuring harmonica virtuoso Ambrose Kenny-Smith.  It was a barn burner of a Sunday night and it was only the first of three concerts.  But don’t take my word for it.  If you want to hear this whole run of shows, you can listen to the official bootlegs.  Add to the mix that the rainy weather threatened to cancel the show every night.  It was a miracle that any of these shows happened, let alone all 3.

Steve Leventhal: The Miracle at Mundelein – September 10, 2023

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – September 10, 2023

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead was the headliner on the second of two nights at The Miracle in Mundelein, a bold experiment featuring two days of music spanning multiple genres, with a mix of hip-hop, jam, reggae and funk artists. Sunday was jam band day with Karina Rykman, a power trio playing jam, funk. and indie-pop, plus Lettuce, a funk ensemble from Boston that has been on the jam scene since 1992. The unique event was sponsored by a local dispensary, thus allowing open cannabis consumption on site, a very chill vibe to go along with top shelf music choices.

Sun Ra Arkestra

Eric Berman: Sun Ra Arkestra – Arden Concert Gild Hall, Arden, DE January 21, 2023

The Sun Ra Orchestra, under the direction of 99-year old saxophonist. Marshall Allen, brought their otherworldly magic to Arden, DE. Not only did they take us to Saturn and back, but they dress the part as well!

Bob L: Crowded House at the Carolina Theater in Durham. Long awaited and did not disappoint. 

Otis: U2 at the Sphere, Las Vegas – September 29, 2023 – 22nd Century experience. Next Level. Top shelf.

Susan W.C: Rod Stewart, Hard rock Tampa, February 16, 2023, really small venue. I have seen him a bunch but playing to an intimate crowd he was amazing.

Bob S.: Lyle Lovett, Chicago Theatre – June 18, 2023

Kirk P.: Sam Grisman Project, Haw River Ballroom, Saxapahaw NC, November 30, 2023.

Craig L.: Bruce Springsteen, Wrigley Field, Chicago, August 11, 2023.

Andrea F.: Andrew Bird, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago December 12, 2023 Yearly, beautiful venue, amazing talent.

Al Y.: U2 at the Sphere, December 15, 2023.