10 Biggest Classic Rock Stories of 2023
Before our very eyes, 2023 has come to a close. And a whole lot has happened along the way.
Tours have started and stopped – this was a big year in particular for Elton John and Kiss, who played their final shows of their touring careers. (What, exactly, their musical life and output will look like moving forward remains to be seen.)
It was also an important year for two of the most important British bands in history, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, both of whom released brand new music. (The Stones will even bring that new music out on the road in 2024.)
Of course, there was controversy. Roger Waters faced accusations of anti-semitism, to the extent that one of his concerts in Frankfurt, Germany was canceled by the local city council, and then rescheduled. Meanwhile, a legal battle ensued between bandmates Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain of Journey.
And there was more. Below, in loose chronological order, we're taking a look at the 10 Biggest Classic Rock Stories of 2023.
1. 2023 Deaths
This year saw the loss of numerous artists, some unexpectedly so. To name a few: David Crosby, Jeff Beck, Gary Rossington, Robbie Robertson, Gordon Lightfoot, Sinead O'Connor, Denny Laine, Jimmy Buffett, Shane MacGowan, Tom Verlaine, Marshall Tucker and more. You can find our individual tributes to these artists here.
2. Roger Waters Faces Accusations of Anti-Semitism
In February, one of Waters' concerts scheduled to take place in Frankfurt, Germany, was canceled by the city council on the grounds of alleged antisemitism, describing him as "one of the world's most well-known antisemites." That concert was ultimately allowed to proceed, but not long after that, Waters was investigated by German police for wearing a Nazi-like costume during his performance in Berlin and also criticized by the U.S. State Department. But in spite of all that, he still found the time to tour the globe and release a brand new album, The Dark Side of the Moon Redux, a new version of Pink Floyd's famous 1973 album.
3. The Drama Continues for Journey Amidst a 50th Anniversary Tour
Journey also had something of a mixed year. At the very beginning of 2023, Jonathan Cain filed a countersuit against Neal Schon, whose original lawsuit landed in November 2022. Both musicians made less-than-flattering public comments about the other, but just a few weeks later, the band embarked on a very successful 50th anniversary tour and seemed to getting along well enough. "We are so happy to be back," Schon said at opening night. "It's good to be back, all together again."
4. U2 Opens Up the Sphere in Las Vegas
It's not every day a new music venue opens up, and it's certainly not every day that a state-of-the-art one such as the Sphere in Las Vegas materializes. U2 had the honor of being the first act to perform in the high-tech space, albeit without drummer Larry Mullen Jr., who took time off for medical reasons. Their U2: UV Achtung Baby Live residency will last until early March 2024.
5. Aerosmith Halts Their Farewell Tour After Three Dates
Fans have been eagerly awaiting Aerosmith's return to the road for some time now. But they only got a little taste of it this year, with the band playing just three shows of their Peace Out farewell tour before postponing the rest of it to 2024 on account of Steven Tyler's ongoing health issues. Those new dates have not been announced yet, but will reportedly still feature the Black Crowes as the opening act.
6. Elton John and Kiss Play Their Final Shows, Eagles Begin Final Trek
After decades and decades of touring, Elton John and Kiss hung it up and performed the final concerts of their respective careers — John in Stockholm, Sweden and Kiss in their hometown, New York City. (At Kiss' show, the band unveiled digital avatars of themselves that will apparently make their debut in 2027.) Meanwhile, the Eagles kicked off their own Long Goodbye farewell tour, which is presently slated to stretch into March 2024.
7. The Rolling Stones Release a New Album
At this point, it appears proven that the Rolling Stones will stop at nothing. In October, they released Hackney Diamonds, their first album of all original material in close to 20 years — and their first without Charlie Watts, who can only be heard on a couple of the LP's tracks. It featured guests like Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and Lady Gaga, and went to the top of the charts in both the U.K. and U.S. The band will bring the new material out on the road with them next year when they tour North America.
8. AC/DC Returns to Live Performance
Taking inspiration from 2016's Desert Trip festival, this year's Power Trip featured half a dozen of the biggest names in metal music. One of them, quite notably, was AC/DC, who had not performed live for seven years prior to that. But they came back swinging, playing some songs live for the very first time, as well as digging out numbers they haven't done in decades. (Other performers on the bill: Metallica, Iron Maiden, Guns N' Roses, Tool and Judas Priest.)
9. The Beatles Release Their Last Ever Song
Who would have thought that in the year 2023 fans would be treated to a brand new Beatles song? In early November, "Now and Then" arrived, which stemmed from an old demo tape of John Lennon's that his widow, Yoko Ono, gave the remaining Beatles in the '90s. Though the trio worked on the track then, it went unfinished until this year, when McCartney and Ringo Starr finally finished it. All four members of the band can be heard on the track, and it became a Top 10 hit in both the U.S. and U.K.
10. 2023 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Say what you will about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but sometimes some truly magical moments happen at their induction ceremonies, and this year was no different. For one thing, new inductee Sheryl Crow carried the evening like a pro, performing with Peter Frampton, Stevie Nicks, Olivia Rodrigo and Willie Nelson, among others, and proving that at the end of the day, these musicians have more in common than not. Oh and there was an awfully big surprise in the middle of the show when Jimmy Page, who rarely makes public appearances, showed up to perform Link Wray's "Rumble."
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Gallery Credit: Matt Wardlaw