Top 50 Concerts of 2013: Classic acts and new, big venues and small, near and far, top the list

By | January 15, 2014


The best concerts of 2013 for the Eastern half of Pennsylvania saw a resurgence and resilience of older acts. They saw the emergence of new acts.


They took place in venues large and small, venerable and very new, near and far. They included many styles and performances.


The best of 2013 was, you might say, a mix tape of music.


The Rolling Stones was a classic band at a big venue, celebrating 50 years as a band and touring the United States for the first time in nearly eight years at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center. Equally classic Bob Dylan played closer (Bethlehem’s Stabler Arena).


Even Justin Timberlake, who despite being only 32 has, starting with ‘NSync, been topping the charts for more than 15 years, was an “older” performer playing bigger venues. Timberlake and Jay Z, a “classic” himself at 44 and 20 years into his career, sold out HersheyPark and Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia this summer.


But Andrew McMahon was playing his first solo tour when he stopped at the small Chameleon Club at Lancaster, then later at the 1,000-capacity Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem.


The band fun. and duo Tegan and Sara are musical neophytes, but played a big arena: Philadelphia’s Mann Music Center. Steve Earle is a veteran, but played the 300-capacity Sellersville Theatre. The Hooters, playing together 33 years, returned to the revived 600-capacity Ardmore Music Hall.


Sands Bethlehem Event Center, in just its first full year, brought some of our favorite acts to the area. But so did Easton’s State Theatre, at more than 100 years old, and the 34-year-old Stabler Arena.


With those types of acts playing those types of arenas, 2013 was a great year in concerts.


We didn’t see all of them — we skipped Philly’s Made in America festival for the Allentown Fair — but ended up seeing more than 170 this year in 57 venues.


These are our Top 50:

34. Hanson, Sept. 2, Sands Bethlehem Event Center


It gets frustrating to make the same point in every review of a concert by the musical group Hanson, but it’s worth repeating. Anyone who would have caught the three brothers without ever knowing about its monster pop hit “MMMBop” when all were adolescents would have rightly been impressed by accomplished musicians playing songs in a variety of styles better than most anything on the radio and working hard at it. That’s because in the 17 years since that song came out, the Hanson brothers have continued to develop their musical skills and put out strong and varying albums. That’s what Hanson’s hour-and-45-minute set was like, offering up pop, R&B and even rock — all of it good — in a 24-song set that alternated between hits and songs from as early as the debut disc “Middle of Nowhere” to “Anthem,” released in June.