10 Kansas City concerts that you should catch this August
The Kansas City area is still in the middle of summer concert season, with iconic artists headlining Arrowhead Stadium, smaller indie artists packing clubs, and one hot dog festival (seriously!). KCUR curated this list of concerts that are essential listening for August 2023.
Summertime, and the living is easy. Easy, that is, if you’re a music lover in Kansas City. We picked 10 of the best concerts taking place during the hot and sticky month of August — a particularly difficult task since you could find 10 worthy performances on any given night.
The month is so stacked with appealing events that not even appearances by superstars like the pop troubadour Ed Sheeran (Saturday, August 5, at Arrowhead Stadium) or the contemporary country heartthrob Sam Hunt (Friday, August 4, at Azura Amphitheater) made the cut.
The venerable one-two punch of Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks at Arrowhead Stadium, the proudly defiant trio the Chicks at T-Mobile Center and the country rebels the Turnpike Troubadours’ at Azura Amphitheater are the gargantuan shows we laud.
Prefer something more intimate? See our recommendations for shows by the indie-rocker Bully at the Bottleneck, the Mexican pop upstart Girl Ultra at the Granada and the jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller at Folly Theater.
Parker Quartet: August 2
- When: 7 p.m. on Wednesday, August 2
- Where: Polsky Theatre, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park, Kansas 66210
- Tickets: $10
Parker Quartet has the uncanny ability to manifest the greatest intensities of an expansive repertoire, even during the quietest moments. The Boston-based string quartet is equally at home with centuries-old works and the cutting-edge endeavors of living composers.
Parker Quartet also engages in the sort of outreach that’s essential to sustaining and expanding the audience for classical music — such as Daniel Chong’s insightful discussion of Beethoven’s “Opus 95.”
The Beethoven piece is on the program of their concert at Polsky Theatre. Parker Quartet will also showcase new compositions by Michi Wiancko and Wang Lu.
The Heart of America Hot Dog Festival: August 5
- When: 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, August 5
- Where: Paseo Boulevard between 15th and 18th Streets
- Tickets: Starting at $50
The title of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s Heart of America Hot Dog Festival is misleading. The namesake cuisine is closely associated with baseball, but the primary attraction of the annual event is a tasty lineup of live music.
The 2023 edition of the festival doubles as a top-tier throwback R&B concert. The three top-billed acts were staples of the R&B charts in the ‘80s and ‘90s: Dru Hill (“Never Make a Promise”), Con Funk Shun ("Love's Train") and the S.O.S. Band (“Take Your Time (Do It Right)”).
The Kansas City artist LeVelle updates those sounds for contemporary audiences on songs like “Don't Play with Love” and “Only If.” The silky vocalist will hold his own against the R&B standard-bearers at the festival. The bill is rounded out by The Queens of Soul Jazz, Jacob Webb and Phylicia Rae.
Culture Club: August 8
- When: 7 p.m. on Tuesday, August 8
- Where: Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, Missouri 64132
- Tickets: Starting at $24.95
It was a major pop culture moment more than 40 years ago when MTV embraced Culture Club, whose effervescent sound could be heard in their first major hit “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” and whose gender-nonconforming style was on display by frontperson Boy George.
The voice that resembled Smokey Robinson’s silky tenor is a bit rougher now, but fans still exalt in Boy George’s renderings of time-tested classics.
Prior to singing along with Culture Club’s anthems, concertgoers will hear Howard Jones perform hits including “Things Can Only Get Better” and Berlin will revive “Take My Breath Away,” the 1986 hit that won the Academy Award winner for Best Song.
Bully: August 12
- When: 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 12
- Where: The Bottleneck, 737 New Hampshire St., Lawrence, Kansas 66044
- Tickets: $25
Listening to Bully can feel intrusive. Alicia Bognanno, the Nashville musician who performs under the monicker, exposes her deepest fears and worst impulses in her songs.
Yet Bognanno’s works don’t resemble the confessional diary entries of a tortured introvert. Instead, her compositions unveil the life of an artist who is fully engaged in the world even as she risks making a mess of things.
The brutal honesty of Bully’s new release “Lucky for You” makes it a strong contender for the best indie-rock album of 2023. Bev Rage & The Drinks, a self-described “loud, fast and queer garage-pop band,” are Bully’s tourmates.
Sylvan Esso and Indigo de Souza: August 18
- When: 8 p.m. on Friday, August 18
- Where: Midland Theatre, 1228 Main St., Kansas City, Missouri 64105
- Tickets: Starting at $29.50
Sylvan Esso isn’t a one-trick pony. The duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn broke through to the mainstream with the ridiculously catchy synth-pop ditty “Coffee” in 2014.
They’ve since demonstrated astonishing versatility. Sylvan Esso’s delightful new EP “Live at Electric Lady” contains loose-limbed folk, funky grooves and earnest pop.
Sylvan Esso will need to work hard to avoid being upstaged by opening act Indigo de Souza. The North Carolinian is one of the most interesting indie-rock artists of recent years.
Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks: August 19
- When: 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 19
- Where: Arrowhead Stadium, 1 Arrowhead Drive, Kansas City, Missouri 64129
- Tickets: Starting at $104.50
Is the “Two Icons, One Night” tour the last gasp of the Baby Boomer generation, or is it the triumphant victory lap of a pair of singular rock heroes? Maybe a bit of both.
Youthful skeptics might consider the hits of the touring tandem of Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks to be on the cheesier side of 20th century pop music. But longtime admirers know their music represents the artistic pinnacle of the 1970s-90s.
Girl Ultra: August 19
- When: 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 19
- Where: The Granada, 1020 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, Kansas 66044
- Tickets: $20 in advance, $25 day of show
Girl Ultra is a kaleidoscopic artist. The woman born Mariana de Miguel in Mexico City is a remarkably versatile purveyor of pop.
The sultry “Bombay” resembles a sultry remix of the infuriatingly catchy “Baby Shark”. “Punk” is peppy pop. Miguel evokes Lana Del Ray on the smoky hit “DameLove” and conjures wavy R&B a la The Weeknd on “Discreción.”
Even though Miguel delivers most of her lyrics in Spanish, the sturdy structure of her songs makes Girl Ultra’s repertoire universal. Shao opens the concert.
The Turnpike Troubadours: August 26
- When: 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 26
- Where: Azura Amphitheater, 633 N. 130th St., Bonner Springs, Kansas 66012
- Tickets: Starting at $39.50
The sudden ascent of a clutch of alternative country bands was one of the unexpected consequences of the pandemic lockdown. Tens of millions of people discovered artists like Zach Bryan and The Turnpike Troubadours on music streaming services.
Pent-up demand for performances by the newly minted superstars is evidenced by the scale of this month’s appearance by Bryan (August 30 at T-Mobile Center) and the Turnpike Troubadours’ return to the sprawling amphitheater in Bonner Springs. (One of the band's early songs is "Kansas City Southern.")
Decidedly grittier than the polished musicians featured on the playlists of country radio stations, the Turnpike Troubadours top a bill of like-minded colleagues on one of the summer’s most noteworthy tours. The Avett Brothers, the Old 97s and Kaitlin Butts share the bill.
Tia Fuller: August 26
- When: 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 26
- Where: Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St., Kansas City, Missouri 64108
- Tickets: Starting at $43
Tia Fuller is the artist in residence of the 2023 edition of Spotlight: Charlie Parker. As an uncompromising hard bop saxophonist, well versed in the language developed by the Kansas City legend — and someone who previously toured as part of Beyoncé’s band — she’s an excellent fit for the annual initiative.
A concert at Folly Theater on August 26 is the culmination of this year’s festivities. As Fuller is accompanied by Kansas City musicians like pianist Roger Wilder, a Parker enthusiast will certainly be shouting, “Bird lives!”
The Chicks: August 29
- When: 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 29
- Where: T-Mobile Center, 1407 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri, 64106
- Tickets: Starting at $34.50
In an early incarnation as a bluegrass band, The Chicks — then known as the Dixie Chicks — were a featured attraction at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas. The group has come a long way from songs like "Thank Heavens for Dale Evans".
After changing direction, the Chicks became one of the most popular bands of the late 1990s with rapturous hits including “There's Your Trouble.” The trio’s fortunes changed when country radio stations pulled its songs from rotationin response to vocalist Natalie Maines’ comments about President George W. Bush.
The women in the Chicks now embrace their status as outsiders on political songs like “March March” and lean into their advocacy of numerous social, political and animal welfare causes. Ben Harper is touring with the Chicks.