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MusicThe best gigs we went to in 2023

The best gigs we went to in 2023

This year has been a belter for live music. Our cities have come alive with pop comebacks, raging metal shows and some damn good dance tunes. We’ve fully embraced our tastes, however cringe they may be (there’s no shame in loving something). We’ve screamed out lyrics, two stepped to our heart’s content, moshed in a festival field and everything in between.

Gen Zers bragged about ‘escape room pop stars’, veteran jazz fans stroked their chins to legends of the scene and some of us unleashed our inner teens by watching pop-punk superstars. Here are Time Out’s favourite live music moments of 2023 – taking in picks from all over our huge, juicy global network of editors. 

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The best gigs we went to in 2023

Bruce Springsteen – BST Hyde Park

Photograph: Dave Hogan, Hogan Media

1. Bruce Springsteen – BST Hyde Park

July 8

There is of course a time when Bruce Springsteen is going to be too old for this shit. But for now, Bruce (the man) is still capable of turning himself into Bruce (the legend). His Hyde Park shows this summer were astonishing for the reasons he’s always astonishing: his titanic back catalogue, the mammoth three-hour runtime, the intoxicating mix of hucksterish showmanship and almost religious belief in the power of this music. There will come a time – probably soon – when these sorts of shows are no longer possible. But in the rapturous now of the shows themselves, it feels like they could last forever. 
Andrzej LukowskiTheatre & Dance Editor, UK

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Beyoncé – Cardiff Principality Stadium

Photograph: Mason Poole

2. Beyoncé – Cardiff Principality Stadium

May 17

Like every Beyoncé fan out there, I already knew going in that Renaissance was going to be a show like no other. And yet, I was still floored by the sheer scale of her star power. The nearly-three-hour set was an ambitious, exhilarating spectacle that translated all the Afrofuturism and Black dance floor history of the 2022 album into a musical voyage. With giant dancing robot arms, a 20-foot tall disco ball horse, and a translucent, rotating seashell, the maximalist stage design more than made up for the absence of album visuals. It was a party above all else, celebrating the joy in finding community, and in letting go.Aliya ArmanSocial Media Editor

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Peter Brötzmann – Cafe OTO

Photograph: Dawid Laskowski

3. Peter Brötzmann – Cafe OTO

February 11

Cafe OTO, the free-spirited, undefinable live music venue, occupies a special place in my heart. And nobody embodied OTO’s uncompromising ethos more than Peter Brötzmann. The German free jazz pioneer, who started plying his furious trade back in the mid-1960s, always said his dream was to sound like four saxophonists playing at the same time. If, on the night of February 11, shortness of breath and physical limitations prevented the 82-year-old from achieving that, he instead arrived at something more impressive. Underpinned by the molten vibraphone of Jason Adasiewicz, the erstwhile Machine Gun signed off with two 40-minute sets that were brutal and at times uncharacteristically tender. As far as goodbyes go, it was an all-timer. A privilege to witness.
Joe MackertichEditor, Time Out London

4. Caroline Polachek – Eventim Apollo

February 1

If I’d known how immersive this gig was gonna be, I might have actually listened to a bit more of Caroline’s music beforehand. One thing I was familiar with was the visceral screech while howled out of the speakers seconds before she slinked onto the stage, and boldly performed ‘Welcome To My Island’, which was her biggest song at the time. And though I didn’t know much else on the setlist, it didn’t matter – it’s a testament to a great gig when you can enjoy it despite knowing so little of the artist’s music. Caroline was right at the top of my Spotify wrapped for 2023, all because of that performance.Liv KellyContributing Writer

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Lana Del Rey – BST Hyde Park

Photograph: Dave Hogan, Hogan Media

5. Lana Del Rey – BST Hyde Park

July 9

After the trauma of watching Lana Del Rey get cut off at Glastonbury, everyone at BST held their breath as the enigmatic singer was 45 minutes late to the stage again. Luckily, we made it through the whole set just in the nick of time, and what a ride it was. Kicking things off with the moody ‘A&W’ rap and finishing off with big hitter ‘Video Games’, the show – featuring ethereal dancers, Americana visuals and of course an on-stage hair change – was a celestial and faultless tour through Lana’s greatest hits.India LawrenceContributing writer

6. Blink 182 – The O2 Arena

October 12

Before I get into this, it probably needs to be said that I was Belieber-level obsessed with Blink-182 as a teenager. In fact, despite the band’s on-off near-twenty-year-long hiatus, I’ve already seen them live up to twenty times. I even got a tattoo. But trust me: even if I wasn’t such a diehard fan, I would’ve had the time of my life at Blink’s long-awaited reunion tour. With the perfect mix of nostalgic singalongs, juvenile banter and heartfelt reflections on what’s been a tumultuous handful of years for the pop-punk trio, it was clear that Mark, Tom and Travis are back firing on all cylinders. Let’s hope it lasts this time. Grace BeardTravel Editor

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Budjerah – Sydney Opera House

Photograph: Richard Milnes / Alamy

7. Budjerah – Sydney Opera House

May 31

My favourite musicians are the soul singers of the sixties, and 21-year-old Australian First Nations singer Budjerah somehow manages to channel that sound while belting out tunes that also hit modern notes. As part of Sydney’s huge annual light festival, Vivid, Budjerah performed in ‘The Studio’, an intimate room in our world-famous Opera House. And boy, did he bring the house down. Apart from his music having the entire room dancing, he was also charmingly down to earth.Alice EllisSydney Editor

8. Model/Actriz – Fabric, London

November 8

From the moment I first heard Jack Wetmore’s guitar crack out from a rickety stage at Wide Awake, I was in love with Model/Actriz. The Brooklyn band played London three times this year – and I regret only catching them twice. Their third and final 2023 show in Fabric felt like they’d found their ideal venue; Cole Haden prowling the crowd, Wetmore driving noise, bassist Aaron Shapiro and drummer Ruben Radlauer belting out deformed grooves – all with an intoxicating audio-visual show deep in the belly of London’s most legendary club. Filthy, brutish, body-moving brilliance. Ed CunninghamNews Editor, Time Out UK and Time Out London

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Hozier – Alexandra Palace

Photograph: Charmaine Wong

9. Hozier – Alexandra Palace

July 21

Seeing Hozier play in Ally Pally against the London skyline felt like something out of this world. Backed by his strong live band featuring multi-instrumentalist Larissa Maestro, the Irish troubadour crooned, wailed and belted a smattering of songs from his 10-year-long discography. The upbeat tunes had everyone singing and dancing along; the quiet moments were heartfelt, tender and enchanting. It was a chilly evening but boy, did his haunting vocals and poetic lyrics send more chills down my spine and left everyone feeling a little more healed. Charmaine WongContributor, Time Out Travel

10. Thundercat – The Forum Theatre

June 10

By some miracle, I nabbed a ticket to Thundercat’s sold-out Melbourne show hours before he was due to step onto the Forum Theatre’s stage. It was the final gig of his Australian tour and he pulled out all the stops, leaving no bass unshredded. The frenetic, mostly improvised jazz set left the audience in wonder – like how the hell does he do that with just two hands?! It was a spellbinding performance and a masterclass in musicianship. Liv CondousLifestyle Writer

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Arctic Monkeys – Sidney Myer Music Bowl

Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Arctic Monkeys – Sidney Myer Music Bowl

January 4

Finally seeing the Arctic Monkeys live for the first time was a surreal experience; here was a band I’ve loved since I was a teenager – so much so that my best friend and I once spent a whole weekend learning the lyrics to every song on Favourite Worst Nightmare. In that sense, I was worried they wouldn’t live up to the hype. Thankfully, they were even better than I had dreamed. The gig was a showstopper – there were flashing lights, Alex Turner strutting around in a suit and sunglasses, and hits that spanned their entire discography.Leah GlynnMelbourne Editor

12. Undergang – New Cross Inn

May 20

For one day, as their tagline said, London was a graveyard. Necropolis was an all-day underground death metal festival that took place at New Cross Inn. It not only featured the best acts from the UK scene (like Coffin Mulch and Vacuous) but imported some foreign talent too, including the absolutely untouchable, utterly filthy, gory, dirty Danish headliners Undergang. They were so dark, sludgy and heavy that they cast a palpable pall over southeast London for days after. In a good way.Eddy FrankelArt & Culture Editor

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Father John Misty sings Scott Walker – Barbican

Photograph: Leonie Cooper

13. Father John Misty sings Scott Walker – Barbican

May 19

The best thing about Scott Walker is that, at any time, you can play the thundering Scott 4 and let his tremendous voice lie across your puny soul like a weighted blanket. The worst thing about Scott Walker? That he’s dead and you can never see him do it in front of you. Alongside the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Father John Misty gave us the best thing we’re going to get in a post-Scott world and crooned his way through ‘Duchess’, ‘The Electrician’, and ‘Montague Terrace (in Blue)’ with searing dedication in the Barbican’s main hall. Astounding. Leonie CooperFood and Drink Editor, Time Out London

14. Cleo Sol – Royal Albert Hall

May 25

I fought for my place at Cleo Sol’s May gig, using multiple laptops and a whole lot of determination. I got pretty much the worst seats you can imagine, the back corner of the very top row of the Albert Hall, and I still had the night of my absolute life. Cleo fans get it: her shows feel deeply personal, she touches on her life, her child, and her own parents, but chatty interludes never go on too long. This is about the music. Joined by a gospel choir, slow, intimate tunes like ‘Don’t Let Me Fall’ lead up to highly-anticipated crescendos like ‘Let Go’, as well as ‘Woman’, with guest Little Simz. By the end, we were singing with our arms around random people in the crowd like they were our best friends. 

E D

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Iggy Pop – Dog Day Afternoon

Photograph: Vincent Guignet

15. Iggy Pop – Dog Day Afternoon

July 1

All the punks left in London (and their kids and grandkids) piled into Crystal Palace Park in July for the Dog Day Afternoon one-dayer, and capping it all off was a tight-but-mighty greatest-hits set by the septuagenarian king of shirtless rock mayhem. A fifty-fifty of Stooges stompers and eclectic solo songs, with a brass section adding an extra punch, this gig had something for Iggy disciples of all stripes – from ’70s classics like ‘Lust for Life’ and the thrillingly dense, metallic groove of ‘Mass Production’, to deeper cuts like ‘I’m Sick of You’, right through to a clutch of tracks off 2023’s ‘Every Loser’. I’d like to know how many 76-year-olds you know that can just keep on ratcheting up the energy across 90 minutes of immortal punk classics. James ManningContent Director, EMEA

16. Blondie – Dog Day Afternon

July 1

Half way through her set at Dog Day Afternoon festival in Crystal Palace Park, Debbie Harry let slip a secret. ‘It’s my birthday today,’ she said matter-of-factly. Her admission instantly buoyed up the crowd who wanted to give the icon as good a time as they were expecting from her. She carried classics like ‘Atomic’ and ‘Rapture’ with the kind of seasoned prowess you only get from someone who’s been in the biz for nearly 60 years. Glitterball costumes gave the set pazazz and she also called out Londoner Dev Hynes who collaborated with her on track ‘Long Time’ for her 2017 album ‘Pollinator’. As the sun started setting behind the stage and Harry was serenaded to choruses of ‘Happy Birthday’, it felt like everyone there had witnessed something pretty special.Alex SimsContributing Writer and Editor

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New Order – The O2 Arena

Photograph: Warren Jackson

17. New Order – The O2 Arena

September 29

This was the year I finally saw New Order live. Any worries that Bernard Sumner’s voice would struggle to fill The O2 were laid to rest with a storming ‘Crystal’, opening a 19-track celebration of a band so extraordinary, they could have played 19 entirely different songs and it would still have been brilliant. Personal highlight? A euphoric ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’. An encore dedicated to Joy Division – and Ian Curtis – was incredibly moving. It says everything about the man’s impact that 43 years after his death, there were his herky-jerky dance moves on this vast venue’s big screen, inspiring hushed devotion all over again. Phil de SemlyenGlobal film editor

18. Fig – Oxford Art Factory

November 17

There’s a particular energy to album launch gigs in the band’s hometown – an energy that’s made even more special if most of the people present have spent the week prior listening to the album on repeat. It was this – along with the soul-packed performance and sweetly nostalgic setting – that made Fig’s album launch at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory a personal favourite. Winnie StubbsLifestyle Writer

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Boygenius – Gunnersbury Park

Photograph: Phoebe Fox

19. Boygenius – Gunnersbury Park

August 20

Okay, maybe it was because it was my birthday. But Boygenius was hands-down the best gig of the summer for me. We had just lost the Womens World Cup, but the sun was shining and a can of wine was always in my hand. To see Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers harmonise in real life to songs like ‘Not Strong Enough’ and ‘Cool About It’ was incredible. The trio’s chemistry was palpable throughout the 2,000-person-strong crowd. The real highlight for me was ‘Bite The Hand’, a song that never fails to strike a nerve. It’s the ultimate indie sad girl anthem. Georgia EvansCommercial Editor, Time Out

20. Yaeji – Pitchfork London

November 11

I’ve been to a lot of great gigs this year, but none as surprising as Yaeji’s rare live date at Pitchfork London in November following the long-awaited release of her debut LP, ‘With A Hammer’ in the spring. With its wonky beats and mellow vocals, the Brooklyn-based DJ and producer’s sound isn’t necessarily the kind of thing you’d assume might lend itself to live performance. It certainly doesn’t scream ‘choreography’. But that’s what the 30-year-old musician delivered, prowling about the stage with a pair of backing dancers while a frenzied, kaleidoscopic lightshow played behind her. Rarely have I seen a room pop off like it did when she performed her 2017 breakout single ‘Raingurl’, when several members of the crowd unfurled actual umbrellas. An unexpectedly brilliant set from a natural performer.Rosie HewitsonNewsletter and Events Editor, Time Out London

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HAIM – All Points East

Photograph: Sharon Lopez

21. HAIM – All Points East

August 28

Ten years after their debut album you can trust that the Haim sisters know how to command a crowd. Their All Points East performance, in the city that Alana Haim tells us was the ‘first place to ever embrace’ the band, had an extra layer of sentimentality. Complete with sax interludes, synchronised drum pounding, booming guitar riffs and the fun (widely-memed) little burst of choreography in ‘I Know Alone’, the trio showed off their impressive musicality. With a sprinkle of classic sibling chaos, it was a night of pure collective joy. Amy HoughtonContributing writer

22. Kylie Minogue – O2 Shepherd’s Bush

September 27

I used to make up dance routines to ‘Ultimate Kylie’ as a wobbly six-year-old in my family’s living room, so to see her in the flesh for the very first time – in a fairly intimate venue where you could actually see the stage – was nothing less than exhilarating. She brought all of the hits – ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’, and ‘Loco Motion’, complete with an epic set up of go-go dancers and backup singers – and all of the fits, including a purple vinyl two-piece and a floaty fiery red number. And hearing ‘Padam Padam’ live? Need I say more.Chiara WilkinsonFeatures Editor, UK

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Taylor Swift – Lincoln Financial Field

Photograph: Jess Phillips for Time Out

23. Taylor Swift – Lincoln Financial Field

May 13

The Eras Tour got more airtime than Paul Burrel on the This Morning sofa – and it’s all completely justified. In May I made the financially irresponsible but core-memory-making decision to fly to Philadelphia to see Taylor Swift perform. Between the show opening with ‘Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince’ and the closing surprise song ‘Nothing New’, I jumped through time. I was 14, dreaming of a first kiss, 25, wrapped up in infatuation and 27, growing wise from lessons learned from heartbreak. I cried, I screamed and did some serious damage to my credit score. I’d do it again tomorrow. Jessica PhillipsSocial Media Editor

24. The Postal Service + Death Cab for Cutie – The Hollywood Bowl

October 18

Every ageing millennial grappled with the passage of time on this 20th-anniversary tour of a pair of Ben Gibbard-fronted classics, Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism and the Postal Service’s Give Up. For all the sensitive nostalgia of the Death Cab set (that ‘glove compartment’ line has a real ‘you had to be there’ vibe all these years later), the Postal Service (including Jenny Lewis) sounds as fresh as ever. A buoyant blast of crowd-pleasing glitchy pop, the sequential setlist remedied the early placement of ‘Such Great Heights’ by rolling out the lovely acoustic version for the encore.

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