Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Year In Review 2023 - Favorite Live Shows

The live show is a slippery thing. There are lots of variables at play, most having little to do with the performance itself. Does the venue have enough bathrooms? Is it going to rain? What day of the week is it on? Did I have a shitty day at work before hand? Did tickets cost waaay too much? All of this can alter one's opinion of a live show before the band even tunes up and with reason. However, when the stars align, there is no place RtBE would rather be than in the moment of magic occurring spontaneously from the stage.

Live Music Has No Equal!
Taken By The Fantastic Megan Donohue

While obviously we can't see every show that is out there, we try to get out often to catch live music. Sure there are a few left in the calendar year, but for now, here is a listing of the best concerts we were fortunate enough to have caught in 2023.

There are links to show reviews in the titles, also because who doesn't love arbitrary rankings, one show at the bottom took the top prize as RtBE's 2023 Favorite Live Show. 

2023 was an amazing year of live music for RtBE, there were so many great shows left off this list.

Here were our favorites:

While Jazzfest is a whole separate beast (and could probably top this list every year) there are some late night shows that really stand out as special and this was one of them. A host of legends and current greats throwing it down in NOLA, resulting in a memorable night of music.

The following Saturday night was even more exciting as the Rough Seven reunited at BJ's and tore the place down. One of RtBE's all-time favorite acts, it is always a joy to catch them in their element.  

Catching friends play is always exciting, and when the Hamptons based, Grateful Dead cover act, Roses Grove Band pulled into Bayside RtBE had to meet up, reconnect and get down to their excellent night of music. Friends or not, these guys are great. Here is a video of them at their home base, Stephen's Talkhouse: 

From one (much smaller) GD cover band to another one. The sweltering NYC summer was made more bearable on this night with the dynamite playing from Russo and company, even if it was cut short due to thunderstorms and lightning in the area.  

This one almost topped our list this year as it was killer from the first notes and reminded RtBE how much we love this configuration of musicians. Here they are doing "Pigs" from a different night, earlier in the tour:

This one was special and almost topped our list. RtBE got to celebrate the legendary Charlie Gabriel's birthday with a host of the best jazz artists in town, in the cozy Mother-In-Law Lounge.  This was magical, and while we didn't review it, we will never forget it. Seeing him sing "I'm Confessin'" was up there for live moment of the year. Here is the studio version: 

He topped our list last year, and blew us away again this year, Kingfish is one bad mama-jama. Go see him live ASAP. 

Up and coming pop rockers The Beaches sold out Mercury Lounge on a Fall Tuesday and brought their A-Game.  A fun show on the LES. 

Getting to see a Jazz legend so up close and personal was magical alone, the fact that Carter and his Foursight Quartet kicked so much ass was just stunning. They simply killed it, starting the show with 50 minutes straight of playing. Unreal for an 82 year old band leader. 

Dinosaur Jr. Where You Been 30th Anniversary Shows 12/7 and 12/8 Music Hall of Williamsburg, BK

One of the loudest, fiercest, power trios ever are still rocking today, as Dinosaur Jr. did Where You Been justice and added some top notch, guest-augmented classics, to deliver tight-as-hell shows on back to back nights in BK. We reviewed Thursday night, but Friday rocked just as hard, the band is in top notch form. Here is video from Friday night's cover of "Down By The River".


Having seen Phish a few times this year (and many many more in past years), it is great to still see them evolve and play at such a high level. While clearly not every show is for everyone, 12/29 was the best we have seen this band since The Bakers Dozen in 2017. Songs we loved, played well, new jams really captivating the ear (check out "Oblivion" below), and a veteran band clicking on all cylinders. Needed to update this list and mention it amongst or favorites of 2023. 

RtBE's Favorite Live Show of 2023

Getting to see Springsteen four times in 2023 (Thanks Tom!) was a real joy and it is impossible to argue with the power of The Bosses live shows. These three reviewed at the link above were all great, as was the one we caught in August at Metlife Stadium, which we didn't review. While it is kind of a cop out to pick the full run, I would go with the Madison Square Garden show on 4/1 as the singular best one, but the full experience is what tops our list. 


What was your favorite show of 2023? Feel free to post it in the comments. 

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