Catching their breath – Winnipeg Free Press

Holiday hangovers aren’t the preserve of the most festive among us.

Whole industries, such as the arts and entertainment sector, are shifting into a lower gear after running in overdrive during the latter part of 2022 and an almost daily schedule of Christmas-related concerts and rescheduled shows from 2020 and 2021.

Festival dates

Winterruption, Jan. 20-29, West End Cultural Centre and other locations
Winnipeg New Music Festival, Jan. 26-Feb. 3, Centennial Concert Hall
Festival du Voyageur, Feb. 17-26, Fort Gibraltar and other St. Boniface locations
Winnipeg Music Festival, Feb. 22-March 9
Winnipeg Comedy Festival, May 2-7, Burton Cummings Theatre and other locations

Winterruption, Jan. 20-29, West End Cultural Centre and other locations
Winnipeg New Music Festival, Jan. 26-Feb. 3, Centennial Concert Hall
Festival du Voyageur, Feb. 17-26, Fort Gibraltar and other St. Boniface locations
Winnipeg Music Festival, Feb. 22-March 9
Winnipeg Comedy Festival, May 2-7, Burton Cummings Theatre and other locations● Winnipeg International Jazz Festival, Canadian Museum for Human Rights and other locations, June 14-24
Dauphin’s Countryfest, Selo Ukraina, Dauphin, June 30-July 2
Winnipeg Folk Festival, Birds Hill Provincial Park, July 6-9
Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, various locations in and around the Exchange District, July 19-30
Rockin’ the Fields of Minnedosa, Minnedosa Beach, Aug. 4-6
Folklorama, various Winnipeg locations, Aug. 6-19

The pernicious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the entertainment sector will also mean a slower entry to 2023 for Winnipeg’s biggest concert venue, the Canada Life Centre.

“The first half (of the year) is lighter than we like it to be,” says Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president of venues and entertainment for True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns and operates the downtown arena, as well as the nearby Burton Cummings Theatre. “There was sort of a rush to return in 2022 and a lot of acts toured in 2022 and now we’re having to rebuild the cycle.

“People are staking their territory: ‘When can I tour that is clear of competition?’”

That isn’t to say the arena will be completely quiet on off nights for the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose.

Two of country music’s biggest stars, Thomas Rhett and Shania Twain, will bring their concert tours to Canada Life Place in the early months of 2023.

Rhett, whose hit Die a Happy Man has racked up more than a half-billion listens on Spotify and who packed the arena in May 2019, returns on Feb. 18.

The first of two Twain concerts at Canada Life Centre in 2023 takes place May 14, with the Timmins, Ont., country legend’s Queen of Me Tour returning on Nov. 7.

Another country act, Nashville group Old Dominion, plays the arena March 11.

John Kenney photo

Shania Twain brings her Queen of Me Tour to Canada Life Centre twice this year: May 14 and Nov. 7.

The downtown venue isn’t just a honky-tonk joint, though. Filipina singer-songwriter Moria Dela Torre visits March 25 and comedian and actor Kevin Hart brings his stand-up show there April 13.

While the arena is a great place to see some of the world’s most famous entertainers with special-effects-laden stage shows, Winnipeg’s smaller venues, which haven’t been affected as much by the pandemic hangover, will see plenty of action this year.

Donnelly says the Burton Cummings Theatre is as busy as it was prior to COVID-19’s appearance in March 2020. In the early part of 2023 it welcomes folk luminary Bruce Cockburn and his 50th anniversary show (Feb. 10), as well as rising Canadian pop-rock acts Alvvays (March 8), Andy Shauf (March 17) and July Talk (April 6).

Another folk festival favourite, Australia’s Vance Joy, plays the Centennial Concert Hall Feb. 21. (The concert hall will also be the venue for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s New Music Festival Jan. 26-Feb. 3.)


Country star Thomas Rhett will be at Canada Life Centre on Feb. 18.

An early highlight on the Park Theatre calendar has Alberta country singer Tenille Townes, winner of both Juno and Country Music Association awards, performing Jan. 29.

Blue Rodeo frontman Jim Cuddy has sold out the West End Cultural Centre Jan. 12 and the converted church becomes the hub for the Winterruption music festival Jan. 20-29.

Unless things change by the time 2024 rolls around, one highly anticipated rock show, Metallica’s M72 World Tour, won’t make a stop in Winnipeg.

The heavy-metal giants haven’t performed live since 2016, but they remain the Master of Puppets in the rock world. They call the shots of when and where they will perform, and that means only the biggest stadiums in the world are on their 2023 and 2024 itinerary, which was announced late last year.


Folk legend Bruce Cockburn is at the Burt on Feb. 10.

Metallica plays back-to-back shows in each city it performs at, a rarity in the concert world.

“We always try to be in the running,” Donnelly says. “Certain bands, like I would say Metallica, start every conversation knowing how it’s going to end. They know which markets they want to go to.

“They pick the biggest venues and the best markets and the biggest towns that can withstand a double. Edmonton is a fantastic hard-rock town, and a big stadium.”

IG Field’s capacity can be expanded to 40,000 for special events, but even that pales next to Edmonton’s 60,000-seat Commonwealth Stadium or the 56,000-seat Olympic Stadium in Montreal, let alone huge soccer meccas such as the Stade de France in Paris or Super Bowl megavenues like Los Angeles’ Sofi Stadium

Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, both of whom have performed at IG Field in the past, are on stadium tours this year and like Metallica, have chosen to play bigger venues than Winnipeg can offer.

Joel C Ryan/Invision Files

British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran won’t be giving Winnipeggers Shivers on his 2023 stadium tour.

“Some of these bigger shows, the demand outstrips the supply,” Donnelly says. “They’re not going to hit every market that wants them and, unfortunately, we got smoked out of all three.”

The closest Metallica gets to Winnipeg is Aug. 16 and 18, 2024, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Sheeran plays Toronto’s Rogers Centre June 17-18.

And here’s a reminder of how massive Swift’s presence is in the entertainment world. She has scheduled five shows at Sofi Stadium, Aug. 3-9, and there are no tickets available on Ticketmaster’s website for any of them.


Twitter: @AlanDSmall

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Alan Small

Alan Small

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

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