top of page
  • Dan Connors

2023- A year in live entertainment

"My preference is live performance, because you get the feedback. There's an energy. It's live theater. That's why I think actors like that." Robin Williams

Americans spend, on average, some 7 hours looking at screens every day. 7 hours! That's more time than we spend doing almost anything else. When you include television, computers, and the ever-present smart phone, we find ourselves staring at screens for huge chunks of our waking lives.

One problem with screen media is that it is heavily edited, curated, and produced to the point where it barely reflects reality (and I would include social media in that category). Content on a screen can be immensely entertaining, (in small chunks), and it can take us to worlds we otherwise could never see. But live performances can be more challenging and engaging, because you can't change the channel or swipe right. You are immersed in the moment with performers and audience alike.

During the Covid epidemic, live performances disappeared for over a year, and some wondered if they would ever come back. The Taylor Swift Eras Tour showed that there was a huge appetite for live music and dance, and that sold out tour has energized an entire industry.

Last year I took in 25 live performances, the most of any year in my life, and most of them will stick with me much more than any movie or television show I took in that year. Here is my review.

Classical Music- The Town and Country Symphony Orchestra

I wasn't that much of a classical music fan until I began working with this small but talented orchestra. There are small non-profit orchestras like this all over the country, and most of the musicians that play in them are unpaid. Classical music can be relaxing and invigorating, and the variety of instruments from violins to horns to percussion are great when they work in harmony with each other. Most music today relies on just a few instruments- imagine how much time it took composers like Beethoven to lay out 100 or more instructions for different sections.

I saw 4 performances of this orchestra through the year, and all events were free and open to the public- entirely supported by donations. I recommend it to anybody who can find one in their area.

The Muny Opera summer season

I made it to all 7 of the Muny shows last summer. They included Beautiful, Chess, Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors, West Side Story, Rent, and Sister Act. The Muny offers high-quality musical theater at affordable and even free prices. I have a weakness for musicals, as they tell compelling stories through music and dance, and the performers all seem to be having such a good time up there. The Muny even throws in a bunch of talented children and teens on occasion, and is the largest outdoor theater in the US, with seating for 11,000 people!

Of the seven shows, Sister Act was my favorite, with a nice story and great songs. I enjoyed it more than the original movie with Whoopie Goldberg. Here is a taste.

The Fox Theater St. Louis

The Fox theater is a beautiful restored historical building in Midtown St. Louis that puts on touring Broadway shows. They offer discounted tickets all the time and I try to take advantage of them when I can. I saw 4 shows at the Fox last year- Tootsie, Six, Wicked, and Beetlejuice the Musical.

While the Muny is an outdoor theater susceptible to the elements, the Fox is indoor and more suited to large touring shows, many of which are fresh from Broadway. Wicked is a great retelling of the Wizard of Oz story from a different perspective, but my favorite show had to be Beetlejuice. I can't remember any show that combined dark humor, dazzling special effects, and genuinely touching moments than Beetlejuice. I thought they did a better job with it than the screen version, and it was a fun evening. (Many of the audience members dressed up in Beetlejuice attire for the evening. )

Stand-up Comedians

Stand-up comedy has to be one of the hardest jobs in the entertainment industry. Working alone, comics have to come up with an hour plus barrage of jokes and stories without any teleprompter or notes. Some jokes are guaranteed to bomb, and they have to work diligently trying out material just to find stuff that works. Most actors and musicians have the hard stuff done by others before they ever take the stage. Comedians have to do it all and look smooth and confident in front of audiences that can be unforgiving.

I saw 3 standup performances this year- John Oliver, Nikki Glaser, and Adam Conover. Glaser's material is definitely geared towards young people, especially women. Oliver is great on his HBO show, but his standup during the writers strike was totally different because it was all him. Lots of British and American jokes, but surprisingly little politics. My favorite was Adam Conover, who performed in a tiny comedy club and stayed afterwards for photos and autographs.

I first discovered Conover with his show Adam Ruins Everything, a show that poked holes in common misconceptions while trying to be funny. He also has a podcast and tours all around the country. His humor is both informative and relatable, and in the same ballpark as George Carlin.

Oldies shows

While Beyonce and Taylor Swift were filling up auditoriums all over the country, there were also touring shows of band that were popular 50 or 60 years ago that played to much smaller crowds at cheaper prices. While the audiences at these shows were decidedly made up of senior citizens, I did see a few young folks enjoying it too.

I saw 2 of these shows, featuring acts like Mickey Dolenz, The Grass Roots, The Cowsills, The Turtles, Gary Puckett, The Vogues, and Little Anthony. As a confirmed Baby Boomer, I recognized most of the songs on their playlists and it was a nice walk through memory lane. Most of the headliners were backed up by younger musicians, but their solos were still strong.

My favorite of all them was Mickey Dolenz, who performed solo on tour for the first time after fellow Monkee Mike Nesmith passed away the year before. His tributes to his bandmates was touching and his voice was still good as he performed many great Monkees tunes, most of which were written for the band by other great composers.

Las Vegas shows

On my first ever trip to Las Vegas, I had to choose from a wide variety of live shows in what is considered by many to be the entertainment capital of the US. The shows in Vegas are more expensive than I've found elsewhere, but there are a lot of choices in various price levels. Major headliners like Carrie Underwood, Katie Perry, and Garth Brooks had shows available, but my first priorities were magicians and Cirque Du Soleil, both of which were in large supply there.

For magic, I chose Mat Franco, a young and coming magician who won America's Got Talent and used it to start a show in Las Vegas. A good magician can make you laugh while he's fooling you with sophisticated trickery, and I left that show with several theories of how he pulled some of his tricks off.

And for Cirque, I chose the Love Show, which uses Beatles classics as a background for amazing acrobatics, costumes, and dance. Having never seen a Cirque du Soleil show, I was thoroughly entertained, and not surprised when I learned that the show had been in production for over 15 years at the same location.

The St. Louis Cardinals

I saw 3 major league baseball games this year, all of which the Cardinals lost. It was a sad season here in St. Louis, but live baseball games are always better than watching on television. The crowd energy can be contagious, and you can see the plays without someone else commenting on them, and you can share the experience with friends while munching on not the healthiest foods.

The Cardinals have realized that they don't have to be great to attract people. There is food, entertainment between innings, and a bevvy of promotions to get people in with free stuff at the gates. Two of the games I went to were special events for NAMI and United Way, both of which I support, so it makes watching a sucky game go down a little better.

Baseball games can be fun if they are close or if your team wins. 2023 will go down as one of the worst years in Cardinal baseball. Here is the only highlight from the entire season, with Adam Wainwright winning his 200th game, and the fans going wild.

I am grateful for all of the performers who put themselves out there to make life more enjoyable. Screens are nice diversions, but live performances are the most memorable. You don't have to pay $500 a ticket and another $100 for those nasty ticket fees. There are affordable options out there for just about anybody.

10,218 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page