The must-see classic acts at Bluesfest 2023

With Byron Bay Bluesfest fast approaching, we take a look at the must-see classic acts on the music festival’s stellar lineup.

Byron Bay Bluesfest is almost here, and as we’ve spoken about before there are numerous great reasons to attend, not least of which is the festival’s lineup. 

Byron Bay Bluesfest’s lineup is massive, so massive in fact that it’s easy to miss just how many amazing acts there are for every kind of music fan. That’s why we’d like to break the lineup down and highlight some of the standouts of the list, starting today with the classic acts on the lineup; perfect for old-school music fans.

Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Raitt, one of the legendary artists who’ll be performing at Bluesfest this year (Credit: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Bluesfest’s lineup this year features some legends of the music industry; artists who pioneered their genre of music throughout the 20th century and continue to put on amazing performances to this day. Without further ado, here are five of the must-see classic acts at Bluesfest 2023.

Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt is a legendary American blues singer-songwriter and guitarist who has been making music for over five decades. She is widely regarded as one of the greatest female blues musicians of all time, and her impact on the genre is undeniable. Raitt’s music is a fusion of blues, rock, and country, and her soulful voice and virtuosic guitar playing have earned her countless accolades, including thirteen Grammy awards (three of which were just this week, with one being coveted Song of the Year award which she won over artists like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Adele, and Kendrick Lamar), a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a slot in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time list.

Her live set is a must-see experience for any music lover. Raitt is known for her energetic and passionate performances, and her live shows are renowned for their intimacy and power. She connects with her audience in a way that few musicians can, and her performances are a testament to her talent as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Whether she’s playing one of her classic hits or a new song, Raitt always brings her unique blend of soul, blues, and rock to the stage, making every show a truly unforgettable experience.

Elvis Costello 

Elvis Costello is one of the most significant figures in the world of rock and roll music. He rose to fame in the late 1970s as a member of the punk and New Wave movement, and has since become known for his unique blend of musical styles that incorporates elements of punk, pop, and alternative rock. Throughout his career, Costello has been praised for his songwriting skills and his ability to craft memorable and insightful lyrics that address a wide range of social and political issues.

Costello’s live set is a must-see for anyone who appreciates good music and the energy of a live performance. He is known for his high-energy, dynamic stage presence and his ability to engage the audience with his powerful vocals and raw musical talent. Costello’s live shows are known for their unpredictability and spontaneity, with the artist often switching between different musical styles and incorporating elements of improvisation into his set. Whether you are a longtime fan or a newcomer to his music, his Bluesfest appearance with his band The Imposters is sure to be an experience that you will not want to miss.

The Doobie Brothers

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Doobie Brothers are one of the greatest American rock bands of the 20th century. Over the course of their nearly five-decade career, the band has become known for their bluesy, roots-inspired rock and roll sound and their memorable, harmony-rich vocals. The Doobie Brothers first rose to fame in the 1970s with hit songs like Listen to the Music, China Grove, and Long Train Runnin’ that helped to define the sound of the era. The US hitmakers have sold over 48 million records over the course of their career, earning 7 platinum, 14 gold, and even an incredibly rare diamond record.

The Doobie Brothers’ live set is a must-see for any fan of classic rock and roll music. Their concerts are known for their high energy, tight musicianship, and powerful, foot-stomping performances. The band’s signature harmonies and sound are even more impressive in a live setting, and their upbeat and energetic stage presence is sure to have you dancing and singing along. Whether you’re in the mood for rock, blues, soul, or R&B, a Doobie Brothers live set is guaranteed to deliver an incredible musical experience.

Mavis Staples

Hailed by NPR as “one of America’s defining voices of freedom and peace,” Mavis Staples is a trailblazer in the world of American roots music and her significance in the industry cannot be overstated. With a career spanning over six decades, multiple Grammys to her name and a place in both the Blues and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Mavis has made a lasting impact through her soulful, powerful voice and her unwavering commitment to social justice. She was a member of The Staple Singers, a gospel and soul group that was instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement and played a crucial role in bringing gospel music to a wider audience.

Attending a live performance by Mavis Staples is truly a unique experience. Her concerts are a celebration of life, love, and the power of music to bring people together. Mavis has an incredible stage presence and her dynamic performances will leave you inspired and uplifted. With her powerful voice and timeless music, Mavis Staples creates a connection with her audience that transcends time and place. A Mavis Staples concert is a must-see for anyone who appreciates soulful, powerful music and the impact it can have on the world.

Buddy Guy

8-time Grammy winner and 38-time Blues Music Award winnerBuddy Guy is a true icon in the world of blues music and one of the most significant guitarists of the 20th century. He rose to fame in the 1960s and has since become known for his virtuosic guitar playing, soulful vocals, and electrifying stage presence. Throughout his long and illustrious career, Buddy has been recognized as a major influence on a generation of guitarists including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and more, and has played a critical role in keeping the blues alive and thriving. Such is his influence and prestige in the guitar world that Rolling Stone named him the twenty-third greatest guitar player of all time.

Buddy Guy’s live set is a must-see for anyone who loves the blues or is a fan of electric guitar playing. His concerts are legendary for their blues-fueled performances and his ability to connect with the audience in an intimate, soulful way. Buddy’s guitar playing is nothing short of stunning, and his passionate vocals and raw emotion are sure to leave you spellbound. A live performance is a true celebration of the blues and the unique talent of one of its greatest legends. Buddy will be bidding farewell to Australia at the conclusion of this trip, so Bluesfest may well be your final opportunity to see the legend perform in the flesh.

Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne, the legendary singer-songwriter, has cemented his place in musical history with a catalogue of timeless classics like “Running on Empty” and “Doctor My Eyes.” His introspective lyrics and emotional depth give voice to the complexities of the human experience.

The early 70s, saw Browne become a driving force in the nascent singer-songwriter movement, rubbing shoulders with contemporaries like Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. Browne’s self-titled debut and “Late for the Sky” established him as a songwriting virtuoso, crafting melodic gems with a lyrical finesse. 1977’s “Running on Empty” is a tour de force, a haunting examination of life on the road that remains a defining moment in his discography.

Throughout his career, Browne has used his platform to champion political and social causes, from environmental conservation to anti-nuclear proliferation. He’s collaborated with a diverse array of artists, from the Eagles to Bonnie Raitt, and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

With recent albums like “Standing in the Breach” and “Downhill From Everywhere,” Browne continues to tour and record, proving that his songwriting remains as relevant and impactful as ever, connecting us to each other and the world around us through his music.

Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams is a formidable singer-songwriter who has been a driving force in the Americana and alt-country music scenes for over three decades. With her soulful voice and poetic lyrics, Williams has become one of the most respected and revered musicians of her generation.

Williams’ music is deeply rooted in the American South, drawing inspiration from blues, country, and rock ‘n’ roll. Her music is a reflection of her life experiences, from her upbringing in the deep south to her struggles with addiction and loss. Her songs are honest and raw, exploring themes of love, heartbreak, and the human condition.

With a career spanning over 14 albums and numerous accolades, including three Grammy Awards, Williams has earned a reputation as one of the most respected and influential musicians of her generation. Her live performances are a testament to her artistry, with her ability to connect with her audience through her music and storytelling.

Williams’ music is not only a reflection of her own experiences, but also a reflection of the broader cultural and political climate. Her lyrics often touch on themes of social justice and the struggles of the working class, making her music not only emotionally resonant, but also politically relevant. 

Keb’ Mo’ Band

Keb’ Mo’ is a powerhouse in the world of contemporary roots music, boasting five GRAMMY Awards, 14 Blues Foundation Awards, and a career spanning nearly half a century. Born and raised in Compton, California, Keb’ Mo’ got his start as a behind-the-scenes creative, working as a guitarist, songwriter, and arranger, before making a splash with his genre-defying self-titled debut in 1994.

Since then, Keb’ Mo’ has dominated the Billboard Blues Chart seven times, performing on some of the world’s biggest stages, from Carnegie Hall to The White House. He’s collaborated with musical legends like Taj Mahal, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, The Chicks, and Lyle Lovett, and has had his compositions recorded and sampled by a diverse array of artists, from B.B. King to Zac Brown to BTS. He’s even had signature guitars made by both Gibson and Martin.

Keb’ Mo’s latest offering, Good To Be, is a tapestry of sounds that draws on country, soul, and blues, weaving together the influences of his childhood in Compton with the sounds of his adopted hometown of Nashville. This heartwarming album transcends genre and geography, as it celebrates the power of love, resilience, growth, gratitude, hope, and memory.

Steve Earle

Steve Earle rose to prominence in the ’80s and ’90s with his uncompromising blend of country, rock, and folk music. Earle’s lyrics are raw and unflinching, reflecting the struggles and triumphs of everyday people, as well as his own battles with addiction and the law.

His debut album, “Guitar Town,” was released in 1986 and established Earle as a leader of the “new traditionalist” movement in country music. The album’s title track and “Someday” were instant classics, showcasing Earle’s keen sense of melody and ability to tell compelling stories in his songs.

Throughout his career, Earle has tackled a wide range of social and political issues, from the death penalty and the war on drugs to immigration and the environment. He’s never been afraid to speak his mind or take a stand on controversial issues, earning him both admiration and criticism.

Earle’s music has influenced countless artists in the Americana and alt-country genres, and his legacy as a songwriter and activist continues to inspire new generations of musicians and fans.

Joe Camilleri

Joe Camilleri, the legendary Australian musician, is a versatile artist who has left an indelible mark on the Australian music scene. With a career spanning over five decades, Camilleri is perhaps best known for his work as the frontman of The Black Sorrows, a band that has released over 20 albums and received numerous awards.

Camilleri’s music is a unique blend of rock, soul, blues, and jazz, a sound that he has honed through his extensive collaborations with various musicians and his travels around the world. His ability to infuse diverse influences into his music has earned him a loyal following, and his live performances are legendary for their energy and soulfulness.

Camilleri’s music is a reflection of his life experiences, from his upbringing in a migrant family in Australia to his travels around the world. His lyrics are honest and insightful, exploring themes of love, loss, and the human condition. His music is a testament to the power of storytelling, and his ability to connect with his audience is a testament to his artistry.

Throughout his career, Camilleri has continued to evolve and push the boundaries of his music, collaborating with a diverse range of artists and experimenting with new sounds. 

Learn more about Byron Bay Bluesfest.