2023 Summer Concert Picks

Mark your calendar for these hot concerts, live music festivals and more happening around the region

by | May 1, 2023

The iconic Janet Jackson will treat audiences to a career-spanning show with opener Ludacris at Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater on May 14.

The biggest music news in Coastal Virginia this year was undoubtedly the return of Pharrell Williams’ Something in the Water festival to Virginia Beach in April after three years of cancellations and a relocation. A diverse lineup of artists—ranging from Wu-Tang to Mumford & Sons—graced the stage, kicking off the summer music season with the triumphant message that festivals are back, baby!

Though the unpredictable weather always a factor (last year’s Neptune Festival was rained out) and permitting has become a ubiquitous issue (as with this year’s Pungo Strawberry Festival and FloydFest in southwest Virginia), festival fans are crossing their fingers in hopes that the rampant cancellations are behind us.

This year, country music fans have both the Patriotic Festival and the brand-new BEACH IT Festival (see page XX) to look forward to. The Sad Summer Festival, coming to Portsmouth, is sure to make emo fans happy. And the lineup for the 53rd Annual Hampton Jazz Festival will dazzle jazz lovers.

The Virginia Arts Festival season is already in full swing and boasts another great lineup for their signature music festival, Williamsburg Live. And don’t miss the region’s many cultural festivals like Bayou Vivant, Norfolk Latino Music Festival, Umoja Festival, Bluegrass & Brews Festival and Pride, which blend music with food, art, heritage and lifestyle.

Here are my top picks for concerts, festivals and live music happening this summer:

Josh Ritter with the Royal City Band
May 7
Perry Pavilion
Celebrated singer-songwriter Josh Ritter and his backing band, the Royal City Band, are an early highlight in Virginia Arts Festival’s lineup, which is (as always) stacked with brilliant folk, rock and Americana artists. Also on deck for the Perry Pavilion in Downtown Norfolk are Layla McCalla, American Aquarium, Valerie June and Over the Rhine. VAFest.org

Mother’s Day 90s R&B Ladies Night, featuring Bobby Brown, Dru Hill,112, Silk, Hi Five & Soul for Real
May 13
Chartway Arena
If, like me, your radio dial is often tuned to 92.1 The Beat, then get ready for a packed show at the Ted featuring six R&B acts that owned the 90s. And if throwbacks are your jam, don’t miss Boyz II Men at Portsmouth’s Pavilion on the 27th, either! ChartwayArena.com

Janet Jackson & Ludacris (Photo Above)
May 14
Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater
Speaking of R&B throwbacks, Janet Jackson’s Together Again tour makes a stop at the Amphitheater and fans are hyped for a career-spanning show that celebrates her 50-year legacy in show business. What’s more—the iconic Miss Jackson is joined by opener, Ludacris, so you know it’s gonna be lit! VirginiaBeachAmphitheater.com

Super duo Robert Plant and Allison Krauss are back on tour and coming to the Atlantic Union Bank Pavilion May 17.

Robert Plant and Allison Krauss are back on tour and coming to the Atlantic Union Bank Pavilion May 17.

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
May 17
Atlantic Union Bank Pavilion
Super-duo Robert Plant and Alison Krauss are back on tour together in support of their second collab album, Raise the Roof, which was nominated for three Grammys—Best Americana Album, Best American Roots Son, and Best Country Duo/Group Performance. For Zeppelin fans, setlists have also included reimagined arrangements of the band’s classics. PavilionConcerts.com

Bayou Bon Vivant, featuring
Blues Traveler, Anders Osborne, North Mississippi Allstars & many others
May 19-21
Town Point Park
Celebrate the culture and flavors of New Orleans at this three-day Cajun festival, where you can eat crawfish and beignets, support Louisiana-based artists, view crocodile and reptile exhibits, and enjoy the soulful sounds of artists like Blues Traveler, Anders Osborne and North Mississippi Allstars. Single-day and three-day tickets are available. Festevents.org

Smokey Robinson
May 21
Chrysler Hall
It’s common to hear the term “legend” thrown around haphazardly these days, but for 83-years-young singer-songwriter, producer, and music executive, Smokey Robinson, who has over 4,000 songs and 37 top hits in his oeuvre, “legend” is an understatement. Motown fans will be “Cruisin’” to Chrysler Hall for this can’t-miss event. VAFest.org

Rival Sons
May 24
The NorVa
Straightforward rock-and-roll is rare in this era of genre-blending music, but Rival Sons are bringing it in its purest form. They’ve shared the stage with Sabbath and the Stones, and this May you can catch them at the NorVa before they go on tour with Smashing Pumpkins, STP and Interpol. TheNorva.com

Patriotic Festival, featuring Walker Hayes, Sam Hunt & Cody Johnson
May 26-28
Norfolk Scope
The Patriotic Festival—a major country music event since 2005—is back in Norfolk for a second year with country stars Walker Hayes, Sam Hunt and Cody Johnson set to headline. Tickets are sold per night, and this year all performances are indoors (i.e. climate controlled) at Norfolk Scope. PatrioticFestival.com

Bluegrass & Brew Festival, featuring Dailey & Vincent, Steep Canyon Rangers and Carbon Leaf
June 9-11
American Theatre
Get ready for three nights of pickin’ and sippin’ at the American Theatre in Hampton, starting with Daily & Vincent, whose sound blends bluegrass, country and gospel; followed by fiddle-centric six-piece band, Steep Canyon Rangers; and Virginia’s own Carbon Leaf—all while enjoying craft beers from five Peninsula breweries. Tickets sold per night. HamptonArts.org

Kenny Loggins is part of a lineup that also includes The Wood Brothers and Keb' Mo' for Williamsburg Live, June 16-18.

Kenny Loggins is part of a lineup that also includes The Wood Brothers and Keb’ Mo’ for Williamsburg Live, June 16-18.

Williamsburg Live, featuring The Wood Brothers, Kenny Loggins, and Keb’ Mo’
June 16-18
Lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
Williamsburg Live brings together a diverse trio of shows with folk/roots band, The Wood Brothers (along with Charleston folk duo Shovels & Rope); followed by a night of “yacht rock” with pop icon Kenny Loggins; and deep Delta blues with five-time Grammy winner, Keb’ Mo’. Single-day and three-day tickets available. VAFest.org

DJ Jazzy Jeff
June 21
17th Street Park
I saw the prolific turntablist, producer and better half of hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince emcee the Palms during his Las Vegas residency and spin the Silent Disco at Bonnaroo, and his show is a blast! The free Virginia Beach Oceanfront Concert Series also features Andy Grammer and others. BeachEventsVB.com

Hampton Jazz Festival, featuring Anthony Hamilton, Charlie Wilson, Chris Botti, Fantasia, Babyface, Kenny G and many more
June 23-25
Hampton Coliseum
It began in 1968 as a one-time centennial celebration at Hampton University and has continued annually at the Coliseum since its opening in 1970, welcoming luminaries from jazz, pop, blues, soul and R&B. This year’s lineup at the Hampton Jazz Festival is, as always, jam-packed with star power. Tickets sold per night. HamptonJazzFestival.com

Chris Stapleton with Margo Price & Allen Stone
July 14
Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater
Country crooner Chris Stapleton’s All-American Road Show is back at the Amphitheater for a fourth time, and it’s one of only three dates to feature both country singer-songwriter Margo Price and soul/R&B singer-songwriter Allen Stone. Chris’ Super Bowl and Grammy appearances this year were reminders of why we love him so. VirginiaBeachAmphitheater.com

Billy Strings
July 19
Chartway Arena
Following up a huge year during which he headlined Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and Jazzfest, and took home a second and third Grammy, virtuosic singer-songwriter Billy Strings return to the Ted for what will no doubt be an electrifying performance of bluegrass, folk and rock music that will take your breath away. ChartwayArena.com

Matchbox Twenty & The Wallflowers
July 26
Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater
Eleven years since their last album, Matchbox Twenty has a new one out this May, entitled Where the Light Goes, and the lead single, “Wild Dogs (Running in a Slow Dream),” is a certified bop! (And that’s coming from a self-confessed hipster!) Their 50-date tour stops in VB late summer. VirginiaBeachAmphitheater.com

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