Home Around Town Best of the Year: Top 10 Concerts of 2023 by Mickey

Best of the Year: Top 10 Concerts of 2023 by Mickey

Best of the Year: Top 10 Concerts of 2023 by Mickey
Depeche Mode perform at Capital One Arena on Oct. 23, 2023. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)

As a young boy in 1980, I was already a David Bowie fan. But my music appreciation identity truly took form that year when a fellow kid brought a boombox into an elementary school reading period and played “Killing an Arab” by The Cure. He had a cassette of the Boys Don’t Cry compilation album, and he was fascinated by what he heard. I too became intrigued upon hearing it, and I was primed for the flood of great music that would soon come from fellow English bands like Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, and more, most of which I would discover via classic MTV.

Many of those bands have toured through the DC area in the past two years, thriving in the time after pandemic lockdowns and ready to celebrate 40 years or more of greatness. These acts are so dominant in my psyche that I forever see them as giants of pop music. And so, it has been very satisfying to witness these MTV-era bands still going strong and also inspiring 21st century bands, many of whom are also spectacular performers.

With this in mind, here are my Top 10 Concerts of 2023.

1 – The Cure @ Merriweather Post Pavilion — 6/25/23

TheCure37The Cure visited Merriweather Post Pavilion for the first time in seven years for a date on their Songs of a Lost World Tour. In a splendid and occasionally spellbinding show, Robert Smith and company performed five new songs along with many big hits, deep cuts, and fan faves. In doing so, The Cure reminded us that they are one of the most misunderstood bands in the world but more importantly that they are a very talented group of gentlemen. These indefatigable superstars held roughly 20,000 people in the palms of their hands for nearly three hours!

2 – Duran Duran @ Capital One Arena — 9/13/23

DuranDuran08Duran Duran took a well-deserved victory lap after their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022, touring everywhere. Right before that induction, they stood up a special Halloween show in Las Vegas, and that show inspired a new album, Danse Macabre, and a wave of additional artistic output. In DC, Duran Duran unveiled the world premiere live performance of the Danse Macabre title track, which made an already high-spirited show very special. Plus, from stage, Simon LeBon recounted Duran Duran’s very first DC show (in 1981) at The Bayou, the long-defunct and sorely missed Georgetown venue, which was very awesome.

3 – Depeche Mode @ Capital One Arena — 10/23/23

DepecheMode034Buoyed by a strong new album, Memento Mori, Depeche Mode performed in DC for the first time ever without bandmate Andy Fletcher, who passed away in 2022. The loss of Fletch shocked fandom but also seemed to fill frontman Dave Gahan and synthesist Martin Gore with a new appreciation for life and a fresh determination to excel. Gahan particularly impressed with a surprising athleticism and smiles aplenty. It was fascinating to see such a huge band continue to grow beyond its work and still embrace it anew.

4 – Billy Idol @ The Atlantis — 9/17/23

Idol04In 2023, IMP opened a new club — The Atlantis, little sister and neighbor to 9:30 Club. The Atlantis kicked off with a bang with 44 acts historically too big to play its 450-capacity room, and at least four of those acts were MTV darlings. The biggest of those perhaps was Billy Idol, and it was shocking to see the hard rocking Billy in such a small space. Billy was full of appreciation for everyone and everything, and he gave the show his all while paling around with his old friend Steve Stevens, who blew minds on guitar.

5 – Nation of Language @ The Atlantis — 11/11/23

NationOfLanguage_MattRuppert16The Atlantis promptly fulfilled its everyday potential by hosting popular rising acts, such as Brooklyn trio Nation of Language. New wave upstarts Nation of Language follow in the footsteps of bands like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark with their sound, but trust me when I say that sound original and organic. Many young new wave bands focus on the trappings and not the substance of the music, but Nation of Language doesn’t have that problem. Frontman Ian Richard Devaney is a true performer who puts his mind and body into his music. (Photo above by Matt Ruppert!)

6 – Glove @ DC9 — 6/23/23

GloveWe are seeing some great new wave talent dominate the indie music halls in 2022 and 2023 (see Nation of Language above), and Glove are emblematic of that talent. Hailing from Florida, the trio want to dance to a sparkly sound, and their youthful glam style makes them great to watch as well. Glove get stronger and stronger every time I see them, and they also made an amazing impression at The Atlantis in November, opening Alan Palomo, where they presented some killer new songs. (Photo above by Ari Strauss!)

7 – Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ The Anthem — 5/3/23

YYY-DN-22The Yeah Yeah Yeahs took a break for a few years after 2014, and the trio were clearly not forgotten by the masses. Frontwoman Karen O and company stormed The Anthem for an extraordinary comeback show following the release of their 2022 album, Cool It Down, their first in nine years. Karen O strutted and danced while singing her heart out to rapturous applause. And all was right with the world.

8 – Peter Gabriel @ Capital One Arena — 9/20/23

Gabriel12In December, Peter Gabriel released I/O, his first album of new material in over 20 years. But first, he toured the material, introducing the songs live before allowing audiences to buy the record. It was a great test for sure, but it was one destined to succeed as Gabriel delivered the music with his trademark optimism, warmth, and paternal disposition. Peter also loves whiz-bang tech, and his wonderfully reassuring show buzzed with amazing portals, interactive screens, and incredible graphics.

9 – Interpol @ 9:30 Club — 12/16/23

Interpol12In 2002, new wave and post-punk music experienced a resurgence with a host of American and English bands that brought moody rock music back to the indie rock charts. Chief among those breakout acts was Interpol, a NYC quartet (now trio) who left a mark with distinctive lyrics and eventful melodies that captured the ear and kept it. Fronted still by the very cool Paul Banks, Interpol have kept their mojo all of this time, and they showcased great new songs and old favorites in three sold-out shows at 9:30 Club in December. This first of three was nothing less than a breath of fresh air and an invigorating shot in the arm.

10 – Arctic Monkeys @ Merriweather Post Pavilion — 9/7/23

AM08I first saw the Arctic Monkeys perform a nervy, frenetic set at the Starlight Ballroom in Philadelphia in 2006. The band hardly spoke a word during that show. Amazing then to watch their growth over the last several decades as the band have blossomed into the fully rounded magnetic personalities. The Arctic Monkeys sold out Merriweather Post Pavilion quickly in a stunning display of their staying power. The English lads are indeed all grown up, and they are heartbreakers with unsuppressable songs.

Special Moment: The Buggles @ The Anthem — 5/10/23
***Trevor Horn performing “Video Killed the Radio Star”***

TheBuggles13Old-school MTV nerds like me have enshrined “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles in history for being the first song played by MTV in 1981. That amazing synth tune still fills dance floors at ’80s dance parties around the world, so it’s stayed with me since then. But I never before had seen its auteur — musician and producer Trevor Horn — play it live. I was totally beside myself then to witness exactly that when Trevor came to The Anthem as The Buggles to open his old friend Seal (and play in his band). He also performed “Living in the Plastic Age,” “Elstree,” “I am a Camera” by The Buggles. For me, this was a can’t-miss opportunity, and seeing Trevor play “Video Killed the Radio Star” will forever be a moment frozen in time.

Honorable Mention: Squeeze and The Psychedelic Furs @ Wolf Trap — 9/14/23

PFurs16I thoroughly enjoyed great performances by Squeeze and The Psychedelic Furs at Wolf Trap in September. The pairing had enough power to sell out the Filene Center at the national park for a well-deserved turnout. I photographed The Psychedelic Furs for the first time personally during that show. While I liked my photos, I was sad that I didn’t get a good one of saxophonist Mars Williams, a critically important player for The Furs and for new wave music generally. “I’ll get him next time!” I declared in my review, but alas there will be no next time. Mars passed away from cancer in October, making his visit to Wolf Trap his last DC-area show. In addition to a fantastic career with The Psychedelic Furs, Mars was a member of The Waitresses, responsible for that killer sound on songs like the seasonal “Christmas Wrapping,” which I was pleased to still hear out and about this particular holiday season. Rest in peace, Mars, and thank you for the music.


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