The Greatest Ever Live Rock Concert Tours

The Best Rock Concert Tours of All Time...

When on tour, rock bands and artists do not only provide a novel and memorable experience for fans, but they can also shape the future of music in unexpected ways.  A live tour can also play a huge role in shaping the destiny of a band.

We take a look back through the decades and come up with a defining list of the ten most important live tours by rock bands and artists.

So, in no particular order, here are ten of the best rock concert tours of all time:

David Bowie — "Ziggy Stardust Tour," 1972-1973

The Ziggy Stardust Tour was a concert tour by David Bowie in the UK, North America, and Japan in 1972–73, to promote the studio albums The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Aladdin Sane.

After the "Ziggy Stardust" tour's high production value proved to be unsustainable for his management, Bowie decided to abandon "Ziggy" in a London show that Reiff described as a celebratory "wake."

Metallica — "Wherever We May Roam Tour," 1991-1992

The tour supported the fifth album, Metallica (also known as "The Black Album") which included a performance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, with the band performing a short set list and Hetfield performing with Queen and Tony Iommi.

The January 13 and 14, 1992 shows in San Diego were later released in the box set Live Shit: Binge & Purge, while the tour and the album were later documented in A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica. This tour was regarded as the band's most important period in their musical career.

U2 — "Zoo TV Tour," 1992-1993

Staged in support of their 1991 album Achtung Baby, U2's Zoo TV Tour visited arenas and stadiums from 1992 to 1993. To mirror the new musical direction that the group took with Achtung Baby, the tour was intended to deviate from their past and confound expectations of the band.

In contrast to U2's austere stage setups from previous tours, the Zoo TV Tour was an elaborately staged multimedia event. It satirised television and media oversaturation by attempting to instill "sensory overload" in its audience. To escape their reputation for being earnest and overly serious, U2 embraced a more light-hearted and self-deprecating image on tour. Zoo TV and Achtung Baby were central to the group's 1990s reinvention.

Radiohead — "OK Computer Tour," 1997

Radiohead released its best ever album, "OK Computer," several weeks before headlining London's Glastonbury Festival in June 1997. That album is considered by many people to be one of the greatest ever rock albums.

Performing previous hits like "Creep" and "High and Dry," alongside the majority of the songs on "OK Computer," Radiohead ushered in an eccentric and influential style of rock.  Even now, this tour was the most important of the band's history.

Prince — "Purple Rain Tour," 1984-1985

The Purple Rain Tour was the fifth concert tour by American recording artist Prince and The Revolution, following up on the success of his sixth studio album, Purple Rain, and his 1984 film Purple Rain. According to Spin, the tour sold over 1.7 million tickets.

This was the defining tour that shot Prince to new levels of fame, making him of the most decorated rock stars on the planet.  Even now, many regard the Purple Rain Tour as the greatest ever.

The Beatles — 1965 US tour 

The Beatles staged their second concert tour of the United States (with one date in Canada) in the late summer of 1965. At the peak of American Beatlemania, they played a mixture of outdoor stadiums and indoor arenas, with historic concerts at Shea Stadium in New York and the Hollywood Bowl.

Typically of the era, the tour was a "package" presentation, with several artists on the bill. The Beatles played for just 30 minutes at each show, following sets by support acts such as Brenda Holloway and the King Curtis Band, Cannibal & the Headhunters, and Sounds Incorporated.

After the tour's conclusion, the Beatles took a six-week break before reconvening in mid-October to record the album Rubber Soul.

Guns N' Roses — "Use Your Illusion Tour," 1991-1993

The Use Your Illusion Tour was a concert tour by the heavy rock band, Guns N' Roses, which ran from January 20, 1991 to July 17, 1993. It was not only the band's longest tour, but one of the longest concert tours in rock history, consisting of 194 shows in 27 countries.  It was also a source of much infamy for the band, due to riots, late starts, cancellations and outspoken rantings by Axl Rose.

Guns N' Roses were at the very peak of their powers during the Use Your Illusion Tour, but this would be the last time this line-up would ever perform together. The band officially split in 1996, due to creative differences.

Queen — "Magic Tour," 1986

The Magic Tour was Queen's final ever tour with their lead singer Freddie Mercury, and their bass guitarist John Deacon, which took place in 1986.  The band would not tour again until 19 years later, when the Queen + Paul Rodgers Tour began in 2005, after the death of Freddie Mercury, and the retirement of John Deacon.

The Magic Tour took in 26 dates around Europe's stadiums, in support of their then latest album A Kind of Magic.  Being the last original Queen live tour, this is regarded as the most nostalgic period of live shows for Queen fans. 

Jimi Hendrix — "The Cry Of Love Tour," 1970

The Cry of Love Tour was a concert tour by American rock singer-songwriter and guitarist Jimi Hendrix, which ran from April 25 to September 6, 1970, in the United States and Europe. The tour turned out to be the last on which Hendrix performed before his death in September, and featured many songs that he was working on for his double album First Rays of the New Rising Sun.

Though the band did not feature original bassist Noel Redding, the trio of Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell (drums) and Billy Cox (bass) was often billed as "the Jimi Hendrix Experience".

Led Zeppelin - "North American Tour" 1969

Led Zeppelin's Summer 1969 North American Tour was the third concert tour of North America by the band. The tour commenced on 5 July and concluded on 31 August 1969. By this point in the band's career, Led Zeppelin were earning $30,000 a night for each of the concerts they performed.

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