The Beatles‘ 1965 U.S. Tour takes home the top spot in the Top 100 Greatest Tours of All Time, announced today by Vivid Seats—the country’s largest independent ticket marketplace—and Consequence of Sound, a leading online music site.
The study explores the most significant, groundbreaking and memorable concert tours to ever traipse the globe. Michael Jackson‘s 1988 Bad World Tour comes in at No. 2 on the list, with the Grateful Dead (1977), Madonna (Who’s That Girl World Tour – 1987) and Jimi Hendrix (1967) rounding out the Top 5. While this list covers the top ten, you can see the full list at https://www.vividseats.com/blog/top-100-greatest-tours.
Here’s the top ten from that list:
“10. Sex Pistols – American Tour (1978)
“Few punk rock bands cause as much of a ruckus before even getting to the stage as the Sex Pistols, which explains why their first and last US tour was one in the same. Their manager booked dates that dodged major markets, sending the band through cities like Atlanta, Memphis, San Antonio, Baton Rouge, Dallas, and Tulsa before concluding in San Francisco. All recounts of the tour point to how amused and bitter Johnny Rotten seemed to be, not to mention Sid Vicious’ struggling attempts at bass. And yet for what a supposed destructive slog it was, the Sex Pistols’ subpar tour turned sour, fizzling out on live radio while captivating everyone who tuned it. It influenced the decades that followed for its sound, its attitude, and its unorthodox touring strategy, suggesting maybe we didn’t know what punk rock had to offer, or what it could take away either. – Nina Corcoran
“09. David Bowie – The Ziggy Stardust Tour (1972-73)
“With three months to absorb the songs on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, American David Bowie fans weren’t prepared for what the musical icon would bring to the stage when he visited the US for the first time in 1972. Critics and audience members could tell a star was born on that tour. It was hard to deny. With his vibrantly orange hair and glitter-covered outfits, Bowie moved with the air of someone who had spent his whole life performing to massive crowds, and yet this was nearly the beginning. “I’m the last person to pretend that I’m a radio. I’d rather go out and be a colour television set,” he later said of the era and his take on performance at large. It was a moment in time where people across the world got to witness Bowie before them and realize, yes, this was a rock star about to take his position at the forefront for generations. And yes, it was impossible to describe. –Nina Corcoran
“08. Prince and the Revolution – Purple Rain Tour (1984-85)
How huge was Purple Rain? Well, it knocked Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. out of the No. 1 spot on the charts. That tells you about all you need to know. 1984 and ‘85 was peak Prince. He had a hit movie, a hit soundtrack, and, with The Revolution behind him, the band he’d always wanted. The shows themselves saw Prince, oozing sexuality, dive right into the best of Purple Rain and 1999, not hesitating to bring out openers Apolonia 6 or Sheila E. to sing along or to extend a jam by 20 or 30 mesmerizing minutes. In some ways, it felt like Prince was the orchestra leader and finally had all the pieces to conduct his grand vision. The tour thrilled millions, sent Prince even higher into the stratosphere, and pissed off Tipper Gore. Does it get any better than that? – Matt Melis
“07. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – Darkness Tour (1978)
“Road warriors might be the best way to describe Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. They’re a combo that thrives on the workmanlike sweat that comes from putting on an unforgettable rock and roll concert night in and night out. Some would argue that lunch box and pail mentality is best summed up by the Born in the U.S.A. Tour. Others would say the band was never better than when setting endurance records on a nightly basis on the Wrecking Ball Tour. But if we’re talking the moment that Bruce and band really became Kings of the Road (or maybe Bosses), that would have to be the Darkness Tour. The slate saw Springsteen finally headlining full-size arenas and adding several soon-to-be staples to the setlist. While these dates weren’t the marathon shows that fans would become familiar with on future tours, recordings capture an intense experience unlike any other Springsteen tour, where fast songs were sped up to breakneck speed and slower cuts were allowed to stretch out and get moodier than ever. It’s The Boss at his best. –Matt Melis
“06. The Who – The Who Tour 1970 (1970)
“Rock doesn’t get better than The Who, and what better way to challenge the notion of ruff and tough classic rock than an opera? On their 1970 tour, The Who hit the road to support the recently released Tommy. While earlier that year, they recorded a live set that would become Live at Leeds, it was the combination of these sounds — the blues-rooted, riff-heavy early material with the more adventurous, cinematic, crescendo-filled material of a rock opera — that nailed this tour down as a career peak. At this point, The Who were settling into their role as rock superstars. With larger venues and gigs on the doc, the band amped up their live antics, playing into the role of frenetic antics and volume-heavy material. On top of this, the 1970 tour saw their iconic headlining set at the Isle of Wight Festival. They took to the stage at 2 AM with John Entwistle donning a skeleton onesie and Keith Moon acting giddy as ever, a seamless culmination of everything The Who represented as a band and the classic rock genre at large. – Nina Corcoran
“05. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – First UK Tour (1967)
“Sometimes a candle burns so brightly that we almost forget how briefly it was lit. We’d be excused if that’s the case with Jimi Hendrix. Once he broke out and became a star at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967, he’d be gone a mere three years and change later, having, in that short time, become the highest paid rock star in the world, recorded several of the greatest albums ever, and transformed not only how the guitar was played but how the instrument was thought about all together. To have seen Hendrix during this period might have been too blinding to fully appreciate. That’s why we’re more curious about the months Hendrix and The Experience spent building a name for themselves in the UK before coming to America. Their first UK Tour saw the band sharing a bill with, among others, a young Cat Stevens and Engelbert Humperdinck. The chance to see Hendrix in smaller clubs already playing with his teeth and, yes, lighting his guitar on fire (often to the consternation of security) months before Americans got to see it overseas feels like the ultimate sneak preview. — Matt Melis
“04. Madonna – Who’s That Girl World Tour (1987)
Madonna didn’t invent the pop concert. But, it’s more than safe to say that the pop concert was never the same after the Queen of Pop hit the road. Her first time out in 1984, appropriately dubbed The Virgin Tour, caused near-Beatles levels of hysteria among young American females, many of whom donned the Material Girl’s style, which gave birth to the term “Madonna wannabe.” By 1987, the US was not enough, and the Who’s That Girl World Tour sent a more sophisticated, but no less risque, Madonna out to conquer the world. And that’s precisely what she did. Her kick-off shows in London sold out in record time, the Japanese military was brought in to control the 25,000 fans who greeted her at an airport, and she played to record crowds in numerous countries and cities. And the most miraculous part was that Madonna transcended all the hype by offering a larger-than-life event. Her performance, her costumes, and the stage and multimedia setup had all been taken to new levels for this tour. To this day, critics and fans alike have proclaimed that they’ve yet to see anything quite touch these shows. — Matt Melis
“03. Grateful Dead – Spring 1977 (1977)
Grateful Dead are one of those bands that really need to be seen and not just heard. And, what’s more, they should be seen and heard among a massive throng of other Deadheads. Yes, the Dead have great albums, like Workingman’s Dead, and more bootlegs showcasing their live chops than most people could ever get around to listening to, but, more than any band in history, what they toured from city to city was a culture and brotherhood, and their people followed. Every fan of the band will have their own favorite – maybe a tour where they spent weeks following Jerry Garcia and co. – but we’re going to go with the Dead’s spring slate in 1977. The run included the band’s legendary May 8th stop at Cornell, considered by many to be the “holy grail” of Dead shows. The set, like the tour, is known for catering to both hardcore Deadheads and welcoming newcomers. In other words, “Dead freaks unite!” – Matt Melis
“02. Michael Jackson – Bad World Tour (1987-89)
Sometimes, we forget that Michael Jackson had already charmed much of the world before he ever undertook his first solo tour in 1987. He had toured extensively with both The Jackson 5 and The Jacksons, playing before royalty, debuting many of his most famous calling cards in concert (including his single glove, sequined jacket, and the moonwalk), and touring the songs off hit solo albums Off the Wall and Thriller with his siblings. However, the Bad World Tour was the moment Jackson took over the world and truly became the King of Pop. He proved that a pop star could outdraw the hottest bands on the planet and that a pop concert could be an elaborate stage production on a scale never before seen. Jackson set both attendance and revenue records while performing 123 times in 15 countries, and his singular combination of distinctive singing, otherworldly dancing, and must-copy fashion made him a pop-culture icon of the highest order from then on. — Matt Melis
“01. The Beatles – 1965 US Tour (1965)
The frenzy has its own name: Beatlemania. It began in the United States only a few months removed from the Kennedy assassination when the mop-topped lads from Liverpool played their first American concerts sandwiched between Earth-shifting appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. By the time they returned for 16 dates traversing the country the following year — most of which lasted only about 30 minutes and included several other acts on the bill — Beatlemania was in full effect. Legendary shows at venues like Shea Stadium and the Hollywood Bowl not only helped set attendance and revenue records but also captured footage of just how emotional fans could get at a concert. In the words of John Lennon a mere year later, The Beatles’ 1965 US Tour indeed demonstrated that a rock and roll band could be “more popular than Jesus.” — Matt Melis”
“There’s a certain excitement to hearing the news that your favorite artist is going on tour,” said Stephen Spiewak, Digital Content Marketing Manager for Vivid Seats. “Profiling the Top 100 Greatest Tours of All Time with Consequence of Sound celebrates the thrill of being there in person when an artist you love comes to town.”
The Vivid Seats/Consequence of Sound 100 Greatest Tours of All Time list is diverse in genre, geography and era.
While 20th century tours comprise much of the list, more recent acts earned a spot as well, including Beyoncé‘s 2016 Formation Tour and Lady Gaga‘s 2012-13 Born This Way Ball. Performers from Barbara Streisand and Alanis Morissette to Kanye West and Bob Marley also earned inclusion.
“One of the thrills of putting this list together was getting to revisit all these seismic moments in music history. Watching footage, reading reviews, and hearing stories allowed us to time travel back to see things like Michael Jackson’s moonwalk or Pete Townshend’s first windmill,” said Matt Melis, Consequence of Sound editorial director. “While we could never include every single tour that blew our minds, we do guarantee that a ticket to any show on this list was well worth the price of admission and then some.”
To view the full Vivid Seats/Consequence of Sound Top 100 Greatest Tours of All Time, visit https://www.vividseats.com/blog/top-100-greatest-tours.