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The Canadian pop-rock supergroup Trans-Canada Highwaymen boasts Sloan’s Chris Murphy, Barenaked Ladies’ Steven Page, the Pursuit of Happiness’s Moe Berg and Odds’ Craig Northey, born in Charlottetown, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver, respectively.Handout

The year in concerts for 2023? In a word: Expensive. According to Pollstar’s annual year-end business analysis, the average ticket price for the 100 top-grossing tours in North America increased 21.9 per cent to US$135.88 from US$111.49 in 2022.

Here’s another word: Unprecedented. Following 2022′s record-breaking numbers, grosses for the top North American tours hit US$6.63-billion, a whopping year-to-year jump of 39.5 per cent.

The skyrocketing numbers were driven, among other causes, by blockbuster tours led by stadium spectacles mounted by Taylor Swift and Beyoncé. The former’s 60 concerts grossed a record-setting more than US$1-billion, while the latter’s grossed US$580-million in 56 shows.

Swift, Time magazine’s person of the year, will pad her tour numbers in Canada in 2024 with six concerts at Toronto’s Rogers Centre in November and three at Vancouver’s BC Place in December.

Those shows are a long way off, though. The following recommended pop, classical and opera concerts take place mainly in the first half of 2024.


Allison Russell

“I used to dream, but now I write,” Allison Russell sings on Snakelife. “I wield my words like spindles bright.” About rebirth and shedding skin, the song is off her 2023 album The Returner, which earned the Montreal-born, Nashville-based roots music star four nominations for next year’s Grammy Awards. Themes of Black liberation and personal redemption thread the material of a self-taught singer-songwriter whose melodic messages are delivered with sparkled joy. 20-date cross-country tour begins Feb. 23 at Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver; ends March 22 at Lunenburg Opera House in Lunenburg, N.S.

Trans-Canada Highwaymen

The Canadian pop-rock supergroup boasts Sloan’s Chris Murphy, Barenaked Ladies’ Steven Page, the Pursuit of Happiness’s Moe Berg and Odds’ Craig Northey, born in Charlottetown, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver, respectively. If that doesn’t make them Trans-Canada Highwaymen, an album of classic Canadian pop covers from the 1960s and seventies – Explosive Hits Vol. 1 – and a 12-city tour of Ontario and the Prairies should clinch the deal. Starting March 6 at Casino Regina; ending May 10 at Ottawa’s Babs Asper Theatre

Zach Bryan

A patriot (eight years service in the U.S. Navy) and a populist (his 2022 live album is titled All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster), Zach Bryan broke big with the release of 2022′s American Heartbreak and the hurtin’-music single Something in the Orange. Two studio records of husky-voiced heartland rockers, earnest balladry, red-dirt Americana and uncomplicated car-centric odes released since continue to endear the Oklahoman not just to country crowds but blue-jeaned people of all kinds. March 17-18 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto; Nov. 17-18 at Rogers Place in Edmonton; Nov. 20 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver

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Zach Bryan performs onstage for day two of the 2023 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on Sept. 24, in Franklin, Tennessee.Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Nicki Minaj

Barbie movie, be a doll and relinquish your claim on the colour pink, would you? Hip-hop queen Nicki Minaj just released her fifth studio album, Pink Friday 2. The sample-heavy, guest-starring crowd-pleaser and its lead single, Super Freaky Girl, arrived 13 years after the rapper’s debut album Pink Friday. So, a sequel. Your move, Barbie. April 17 at Bell Centre in Montreal; April 18 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto

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Nicki Minaj performs onstage during iHeartRadio Power 96.1's Jingle Ball 2023 at State Farm Arena on Dec. 14, in Atlanta, Georgia.Derek White/Getty Images

Diljit Dosanjh

In 2022, the actor/musician known as the Super Singh of Punjab packed concert arenas in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto. This year he became the first artist to perform a fully Punjabi set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Capitalizing on his success in Canada – his album Ghost spent seven weeks this year on the Billboard Canadian Albums chart – Dosanjh tests his skill set in pop, trap and R&B at the stadium level for what is being billed as the largest-ever Punjabi music performance outside of India. April 27 at BC Place in Vancouver

Classical and opera

Toronto Symphony Orchestra: Saxophone Concerto

An outsider is set to appear with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. No, not Peter Oundjian – the TSO’s conductor emeritus is always a welcome sight on the podium. The unusual visitor is the saxophone, a relative stranger to symphonies. Making its Canadian premiere is John Adams’s jazzy 2013 Saxophone Concerto, with soloist Steven Banks. The program includes Rachmaninoff’s soaring, shattering Symphony No. 3. Jan. 17 and 20 at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto; Jan. 21 at George Weston Recital Hall in Toronto

Winnipeg New Music Festival: Missy Mazzoli

The goal can’t be to make art to satisfy everyone’s demands,” American composer Missy Mazzoli recently told The Talks magazine, “because then you’re not really creating anything that is daring, or far reaching.” The quote is music to the ears of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and its annual event of outside-the-box presentations. Five concerts include a program (Rites & Passages) that spotlights two Mazzoli orchestral works: Orpheus Undone and the five-movement Violin Concerto (Procession), with soloist Karl Stobbe. Jan. 27 at Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg; Winnipeg New Music Festival runs Jan. 25-Feb. 2

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American composer Missy Mazzoli.Marylene Mey/Handout

Pacific Opera: Ainadamar

The title means Fountain of Tears in Arabic, and refers to the place in Granada where Spanish poet/playwright Federico Garcia Lorca was assassinated in 1936. Golijov’s death-haunted single-act opera made its premiere at the Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts in 2003. Feb. 21, 23, 25 and 27 at Royal Theatre in Victoria

Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra

When he’s not conducting the Metropolitan Opera in New York or his hometown Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal, Yannick Nézet-Séguin waves his baton over the acclaimed Philadelphia Orchestra, founded in 1900. The Grammy-winning maestro leads the group in a Canadian tour of Florence Price’s Symphony No. 4 and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2. April 17 at Koerner Hall in Toronto; April 18 at Southam Hall in Ottawa; April 19 at La Maison Symphonique in Montreal

Canadian Opera Company: Aportia Chryptych – A Black Opera for Portia White

Following next year’s productions of The Cunning Little Vixen, Don Giovanni, Don Pasquale and the rarely presented Medea by Luigi Cherubini, the COC closes its season with a world premiere. Aportia Chryptych: A Black Opera for Portia White, by librettist HAUI and composer Sean Mayes, recollects the story of the first Black Canadian concert singer to achieve international fame. With spoken word, rap, folk songs, R&B and classic opera, the legendary mid-century contralto is celebrated. June 14-16 at Canadian Opera Company Theatre in Toronto

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The COC closes its season with a world premiere. Aportia Chryptych: A Black Opera for Portia White, by librettist HAUI and composer Sean Mayes.COC

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