The Showgoer: Out Like A Lion, In Like A Lion; 2022 Ends, 2023 Begins Big Time

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BEAUTY & THE BEAST: Muse’s Matt Bellamy and The Showgoer backstage at iHEARTRadio’s ALTer EGO ’23 at the Forum on Jan. 14.

The whirlwind that was the record-setting 2022 touring year went out like a $6.2 billion lion (2022’s record-setting gross for the Top 100 tours) and saw 2023 enter just as full-tilt and ferocious.

Unlike 2022’s uneven Q1, which was marred by the omicron variant and lingering market fears, Q1 2023 picked up right where Q4 left off (“tripledemic” be damned!). After we closed our special year-end issue, Bad Bunny broke Ed Sheeran’s calendar year record with a $435.4 million gross, eking-out Sheeran’s “Divide Tour” run which in 2018 earned $432.4 million.

That’s not the only all-time touring record likely to fall in 2023. Our eagle-eyed box office guru, Bob Allen, wrote last week about Elton John likely surpassing Sheeran’s record-setting “Divide Tour,” which ran from March 2017 through August 2019 and grossed over $776 million. It’s a sign of the times that Elton’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road,” now in its final year after launching in 2018, surviving the pandemic and coming in at No. 2 on 2022’s year-end chart, could very well set the all-time touring record. U2’s 360° Tour record stood for more than eight years; Sheeran’s will stand for half that. It’s proof these years are indeed lion-like with astonishing grosses never-before thought possible, shattering records with more to come (looking at you, Taylor Swift).

In addition to Elton and Sheeran, a huge swath of acts who played in 2022 remain on the road this year. Touring post-pandemic, for some artists, seems perpetual. Acts like Dead & Co., Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe, Lizzo, Harry Styles, Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kenny Chesney, Journey, Roger Waters, Grupo Firme, Chris Stapleton, Metallica,  The Weeknd, Eagles, Carrie Underwood, Imagine Dragons, Blake Shelton, Backstreet Boys and Iron Maiden play again this year.

Adding to that mountain of major touring acts out this year are: Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, SZA, Paramore, Blink-182, Madonna, Zach Bryan, P!nk, Arctic Monkeys, Death Cab and Postal Service, Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks, Janet Jackson, Shania Twain, Margo Price, Wizkid, matchbox twenty, Maroon 5, Depeche Mode, Muse and many others including residency shows from Garth Brooks and Katy Perry, and yet-to-be-announced dates from Beyoncé and Drake.  

It raises the question: is there room in the market? This especially as this lion of a year runs square into what is, as of late, a bear market. With tech and other industries downsizing, volatile stock indexes inducing neck cramps and a polarized Congress perpetually engaging in internecine warfare over debt, spending and pretty much everything else, are consumers’ pockets deep enough? Some argue entertainment spending is inelastic, pointing to the film industry’s success during the Great Depression. 

Either way, the Showgoer is undeterred.  

New Years started off with a bang! Or more a tsk boom, tsk boom, tsk boom, courtesy of Detroit techno house soul DJ, producer and legend Moodymann (a.k.a. Kenny Dixon, Jr.) who played Jan. 1 at L.A.’s 1720 club until 2:00 a.m. the next day.  Promoted by Minimal Effort, KDJ dropped bangers like “Warning,” by Rhemi & Lynn Lockamy, “Party Woman” by Bamily and “Infiltrator” by LTJ X-Perience, as well as better known fare like Gang Starr’s “Full-Clip” and Kelis’ “Millionaire” with André 3000. In between, Moodymann’s soulfully sonorous voice soothed the grooving masses. He’s one of the few selectors who can talk between tracks and keep the party going. His love for L.A. runs deep and, it turns out, he was born not far from the Warehouse District club.

Catching Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy solo on the second night of his four-night Largo stint on Jan. 6 was vastly different but equally gratifying. It was a make-good from a December postponement supporting his new solo joint, Love Is The King, from which he opened with the gorgeous “I Know What It’s Like.” Better known Wilco “hits” included “Via Chicago” “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” “Everlasting Everything,” “One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)” and “California Stars.” The more obscure “Venus Stop the Train,” is an outtake from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and pure pathos bliss. Add in “Pecan Pie” by his former side hustle Golden Smog and you realize Tweedy’s back catalog is a  treasure trove. Performing a number of unreleased songs, how long before Tweedy/Wilco have a new album? A Wilco spring tour was announced at press time.

Fred Armison opened for Tweedy in his guileless musician persona. He earnestly explained why a guitar capo is just a “crutch” and then played the worst version ever of The Beatles’ “Blackbird.” He is awesome.

Showgoer hit iHeartRadio’s ALTer Ego on Jan. 16 featuring a cavalcade of rawk: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jack White, Muse, Chvrches, Fall Out Boy, Phoenix, Beach Weather and Rosa Linn. The 30-minute sets were tasty morsels from a bountiful smorgasbord proving once again, that rock, and rock radio, are still not dead. So many highlights: Jack White’s powerful “Steady As She Goes,” “Seven Nation Army” and “Icky Thump;” Muse’s infectious “Madness” and metal stomper “Hysteria,” and The Chili Pepper’s hooky “Snow (Hey Oh)” “Californication” and “By The Way.” 

Music exec spotting included iHeartRadio’s Bob Pittman and Alissa Pollack, sibling industry honchos Lucy Dickins (co-head of music at WME) and manager brother Jonathan Dickins (Adele), Virgin’s Jacqueline Saturn, manager Peter Katsis and Warner Records’ Rob Goldklang.

Two worthy music-related art installations at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery’s L.A. outposts: The far-out “Gothic Futurism” by late graffiti artist and proto-rapper Rammellzee featured superhero-like action figures made from found objects. “Beat Bop,” a track Rammellzee recorded with artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1983, is an early hip-hop classic.

“George Clinton: The Rhythm of Vision” features paintings and other artwork by the Godfather of Funk. Makes sense considering P-Funk’s iconic visual representations of their psychedelic funk, their outlandish costumes, cartoon drawings and cosmic sets. The center piece is a collaborative sculpture with Lauren Halsey that looks like the P-Funk mothership in mountain form with tripped-out elements including Maggot Brain head and Sir Nose D’void Funk.