March 2023 Concert Guide: Blake Shelton, John Mayer, Kelsea Ballerini, Adrian Belew and Jerry Harrison, Joe Bonamassa, and Donnie

Blake Shelton performing during the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games opening ceremonies at Soldier Field in Chicago. (DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

Blake Shelton performing during the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games opening ceremonies at Soldier Field in Chicago. (DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

Blake Shelton and John Mayer are brining the biggest shows to Pittsburgh this month. Both will be at PPG Paints Arena. Another big show will be The Killers who will play The Pete. Stage AE sees Kelsea Ballerini performing there in a sold out show. There’s several concerts this month featuring some amazing guitar firepower: Adrian Belew (and Jerry Harrison), Joe Bonamassa, and Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. Is music to grove to more your style? Then checkout K.C. and The Sunshine Band, Rubblebucket, and GZA. On the hometown heroes front, Donnie Iris is playing at a big 80th birthday show in his honor at UPMC Events Center with The Clarks and The Vindys. Happy birthday Donnie!

This guide features (in chronological order) Spotlight Picks, Other Shows of Interest, and Big Shows on the Horizon. Get out and see what pleases you, whether it’s one of our concert picks or something entirely different.

Wednesday, March 1

Joe Bonamassa is a blues rock guitar virtuoso, whose soaring lead guitar riffs are heavily influenced by British players, including Eric Clapton, John Mayall, and Jeff Beck. He opened for B.B. King when he was all of 12 years old.  Bonamassa’s albums have occupied the number one spot on the Billboard Blues Chart 11 times. Many people will remember Bonamassa from his PBS concert specials. Time Clocks is his latest release. Bonamassa also has a concert film Tales of Time, due out April 14. It was recorded at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater. Pittsburgh has many great guitarists who enjoy seeing other talented players, which is evidenced by the brisk ticket sales for this show. 8 p.m. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District. (R.H.)

Joe Bonamassa (Photo: Kit Wood).

Joe Bonamassa (Photo: Kit Wood).

Friday, March 3

The Talking Heads’ 1981 album, Remain in Light, was ranked as the fourth best album of the 1980s by Rolling Stone in 1989. It has even been honored with a place in the Library of Congress as an important part of American music. 

Now, key Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison (keyboards, guitars, vocals) is teaming up with legendary guitarist Adrian Belew, who played with the Talking Heads as a touring band member and also played on some recordings, to perform songs from Remain in Light. Additionally they will perform other popular Talking Heads songs and hits from Harrison’s and Belew’s solo careers. Belew rose to fame as the guitarist and front man for the prog-rock group King Crimson. Other great gigs for him were as a touring guitarist for David Bowie, Frank Zappa, and Nine Inch Nails. See our story and interview with Adrian Belew. The North American tour will stop at the Roxian Theatre. 8 p.m. 425 Chartiers Ave., McKees Rocks. (R.H.)

Adrain Belew (L.) and Jerry Harrison (R.) are reuniting to perform songs from Talking Heads' album 'Remain in Light.' (Photo: Michael Weintrob)

Adrain Belew (L.) and Jerry Harrison (R.) are reuniting to perform songs from Talking Heads’ album ‘Remain in Light.’ (Photo: Michael Weintrob)

Friday, March 10

There’s a reason GZA (née Gary Grice) also goes by The Genius. He has had a life-long interest in science, especially quantum physics. His second solo album, 1995’s Liquid Swords, is often lauded by fans and critics alike as the paragon of lyrical prowess. Its reputation has only grown; over 20 years after its release, it went platinum. Plus, what topic won’t GZA rap about? He also champions science education for New York City high school students. With Columbia University Professor Christopher Emdin and the website Rap Genius, he helped to pilot Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. (Bringing Attention to Transforming, Teaching, and Learning Science), an initiative which teaches science through hip hop. GZA is a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, arguably the greatest hip hop group of all time. GZA hasn’t released an album since 2008, but he has been keeping busy with several projects including providing a voice role in Netflix’s “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts” as Bad Billions. He even created a song for the series. A fun song/video of his is “Breaker Breaker” which has GZA driving around a tractor trailer with numerous speakers on the inside and outside. GZA will perform his landmark album Liquid Swords in its entirety. 8:30 p.m., Mr. Smalls Theater, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (C.M., R.H.)

Friday, March 10 & Saturday, March 11

KC and The Sunshine Band rose out of the ’70s music scene in Miami, Florida. Creating classic dance grooves including “That’s The Way I Like It,” “Get Down Tonight,” “I’m You’re Boogie Man,” and “Give It Up,” they achieved massive success. U.S. music charts in the mid to late ’70’s were often populated by the band’s numerous hits. KC and the Sunshine Band have been nominated for nine Grammy Awards, winning three. When disco/dance music faded and punk music rose in the early ’80s, KC retired for a while until brought back by popular demand in 1991. Rivers Casino, 777 Casino Dr., Pittsburgh (RH)

Saturday, March 11

Area native Donnie Iris, aka King Cool, is performing at the UPMC Events Center with his band, The Cruisers. It is a celebration of his 80th birthday. Sure to be on the set list are top favorites including “Ah Leah” and “Love Is Like a Rock.” Iris was once a member of the Pittsburgh group The Jaggerz in the early ’70s who had a monster hit with the “The Rapper,” which reached no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Helping Iris celebrate is another top Pittsburgh band, The Clarks. Special guest is The Vindys. 7 p.m. 6001 University Blvd., RMU, Moon Twp. (R.H.)

Saturday, March 18

John Mayer went from pop to blues to jam-band. Let’s chart this development. One of his first singles was “Your Body Is a Wonderland,” which won a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 2003. He moved to blues in the mid-aughts by collaborating with legends such as B.B. King, forming the John Mayer Trio, and releasing Continuum in 2006. Cut to a few albums later, and John Mayer became a Deadhead after hearing “Althea” on a Pandora station. He befriended Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir in 2015. The pair and Dead drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann soon formed Dead & Company, which will be coming to Pittsburgh this summer on their final tour, so you can even see Mayer twice. He will perform his solo work at PPG Paints Arena. Mayer’s most recent studio album is Sob Rock, released in 2021. 8 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (C.M., R.H.)

Kelsea Ballerini’s father, Ed, once worked as a sales manager for a country music station in their hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Kelsea continues her dad’s work in a similar vein, she has sold a multitude of her country singles and albums over her almost ten-year career. Her first two albums have accounted for seven charted songs on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay charts. She had five No. 1 singles on the latter. Her latest LP, Subject to Change, was released last year and it reached No. 1 on the U.K. Country Chart and No. 3 here in the U.S. on Billboard‘s Top Country Albums. Now she visits Pittsburgh on her Heartfirst Tour for a sold out show at Stage AE. Special guest is Georgia Webster. Doors open at 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (R.H.)

Sunday, March 19

Like a mirage in the desert, The Killers rose out of the town of Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2001. Reportedly, the band’s name is derived from a logo on the bass drum of a fictitious band that was featured in the music video for the New Order song “Crystal.” The name has served them well as they have cooked up some killer tuneage over the years including “Mr. Brightside,” “boy,” “When You Were Young,” and “Caution.”  The Killers latest album is Pressure Machine, released in 2021. The group stops at Petersen Events Center on their Exploding the Mirage Tour. 7:30 p.m. 3719 Terrace St., Oakland. (R.H.)

Wednesday, March 22

The Grammy Award-winning Tedeschi Trucks Band plays UPMC Events Center. Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks are both bandmates and a married couple. They formed the band in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2010 after both had already tasted career success. Trucks was a member of the Allman Brothers for a number of years, fronted his own band, and worked on projects with many musicians, including Eric Clapton. He’s known as one of the guitar greats and was ranked No. 16 on Rolling Stone‘s list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time in 2011. Before becoming a headliner of her own, Susan Tedeschi opened for top acts like B.B. King, Bob Dylan, and even the Allman Brothers (that’s how they met in 1999). Known for her pleasant vocals, she is a respected guitarist in her own right. The Tedeschi Trucks Band has been nominated for two Grammy Awards and won one in 2012 for the album Revelator. Before flying the banner of Tedeschi Trucks Band, the two collaborated in their previous band, Soul Stew Revival. Their soulful, blues-rock 12-piece band is a big reason for their success. Their latest LP release is 2022’s I Am the Moon. Opening is Myron Elkins. 7:30 p.m. 6001 University Blvd., RMU, Moon Township. 

Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi have fun jamming together at an outdoor concert in 2014. photo: Michael F. O'Brien and Wikipedia.

Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi have fun jamming together at an outdoor concert in 2014. photo: Michael F. O’Brien and Wikipedia.

Rubblebucket mixes indie, jazz, and psychedelic rock. The band started a dance party during its set at the 2016 Thrival Music Festival. The party culminated with the band parading through the audience during “Came Out of a Lady.” Alex Toth sat on one concert-goer’s shoulders while still playing the trumpet. Singer and saxophonist Annakalmia Traver then announced it was his birthday. Toth and the audience couldn’t have looked happier. Traver and Toth met at the University of Vermont as music majors; Rubblebucket, active since 2007, is based in Brooklyn, New York City. The band has played “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and NPR’s “Tiny Desk.” This year’s Earth Worship is the group’s latest album. Be sure to bring your dancing shoes to Mr. Smalls Theater.  Special guest is  Lunar Vacation. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (C.M./, R.H.)

Rubblebucket's lead singer and saxophonist Annakalmia Traver performing near the front of the stage.

Rubblebucket’s lead singer and saxophonist Annakalmia Traver performing near the front of the stage at the 2016 Thrival Music Festival. (photo: Rick Handler.)

Friday, March 24

Blake Shelton‘s background pegs him a genuine old-school country boy. Born and raised in Ada, Oklahoma, he learned to pick and sing from family members, then at 17 moved directly from Ada to Nashville. But Shelton also typifies the cutting-edge modern face of country music—open to eclectic influences, and reaching out to all audiences, as he tried to illustrate in his famous video of “Boys ‘Round Here” (above). In songs like “Sangria” and “Neon Light,” he mixes traditional country themes with new musical touches. And Shelton makes all his tunes work by virtue of how naturally he comes across. With a fine natural singing voice and an easy, engaging manner, he doesn’t have to shout or showboat to bring life to a song; he just brings himself. A multiple Grammy winner and Grand Ole Opry member, Shelton was named the Country Music Association’s Male Vocalist of the Year five years in a row.  He is also a judge on the NBC singing competition show “The Voice” and the husband of Gwen Stefani. 2021’s Body Language is Shelton’s latest studio album. This is Shelton’s Back to the Honkytonk Tour featuring Carly Pearce and Jackson Dean.  7 p.m.  PPG Paints Arena, 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (M.V., RH)

Other Shows of Interest

March 2
Frank Vieira (Jergel’s)

March 3
Everclear (Jergel’s)

March 4
Bill Toms & Hard Rain (Rivers Casino)

March 6 -8
The Celtic Tenors (The Strand)

March 7
Hugo Cruz and the Caminos (Liberty Magic)

March 10
Soul Sessions : Meshell Ndegeocella (AWAACC)
Mark Dignam and Friends (Club Cafe)

March 11

Bastard Bearded Irishfest (Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall)
Vanessa Carlton (Jergel’s)

March 12
The Oak Ridge Boys (Palace Theater)
Black Violin Experience (Cultural Trust)

March 13
Crash Test Dummies  (Palace Theater)

March 16
Screaming Orphans (Crafthouse Stage & Grill)

March 18
Sunstar Festival (Kelly Strayhorn Theater)

March 20
The Irish Tenors (Palace Theatre)

March 24 & March 25
The Clarks (Lamp Theater)

March 24
Jim Donovan & Sun King Warriors (Moondog’s Pub)

March 26
Tinsley Ellis & Marcia Ball (Pittsburgh Shrine Center)
Manhattan Transfer (Palace Transfer)

March 28
Jim Messina (The Oaks Theater)
Lynn Speakman Ensemble (Liberty Magic)


Big Shows on the Horizon

April 5
Queensrÿche (Roxian Theatre)

April 6
Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes (Palace Theatre)

April 17
Nickel Creek (Cultural Trust)

April 18
Natalie Merchant (Cultural Trust)

April 19
Jill Sobule (Club Cafe)

April 28
The Wallflowers (Palace Theatre)

April 29
Luke Combs World Tour (Acrisure Stadium)

April 30
Coheed and Cambria (Stage AE)


Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central.

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