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15 Legendary Tours That Never Were

The most enticing road shows and residencies that nearly happened, from Guns N’ Roses and N.W.A to Lady Gaga and Kanye West

We all have our fantasy “dream tours” – favorite recording artists (or even combinations thereof) that we’d love to see performing live in concert, even if doing so would require the acquisition of a time machine. But even more tantalizing, in a way, are the “ghost tours” – those incredible tours that very nearly did come to pass, at least until fate, greed or (in some cases) common sense intervened. 

Here are 15 of the most memorable ghost tours from the last half-century of pop history; some of them have achieved almost mythological status, while others marked a turning point in an artist’s history, and still others simply exemplify the difficulties that can arise when you’re dealing with arena-sized egos. Regardless, we wish all of these tours had happened the way they were originally supposed to – and we really wish we could have been there for all of them.

WEMBLEY ARENA Photo of WINGS and Linda McCARTNEY and Paul McCARTNEY, and Linda McCartney, performing live onstage with Wings (Photo by David Redfern/Redferns)

David Redfern/Redferns

Paul McCartney and Wings: Japanese and U.S. Tours (1980)

On January 16th, 1980, Paul McCartney arrived in Tokyo for Wings’ 11-date tour of Japan, his first visit to the country since the Beatles had performed there in 1966. But thanks to the nearly eight ounces of marijuana that he’d foolishly tried to conceal in his luggage, he wound up spending 10 days in jail instead. The former Beatle’s ganja gaffe not only forced the entire Japanese tour to be canceled, but also caused McCartney to drop his plans for Wings’ summer 1980 tour of the U.S., which would have been the band’s first stateside jaunt since 1976. The band unraveled from there without playing another gig, officially coming to an end when founding Wings member Denny Laine left in the spring of 1981.

ROTTERDAM Photo of Joy Division, Ian Curtis performing live onstage at the Lantaren (Photo by Rob Verhorst/Redferns)

Rob Verhorst/Redferns

Joy Division: First U.S. Tour (1980)

On the surface, at least, things were looking good for Manchester post-punk band Joy Division in the spring of 1980. Their acclaimed first album, 1979’s Unknown Pleasures, had effectively put Tony Wilson’s Factory Records label on the map, and resulted in a major tour of the U.K. opening for the Buzzcocks. Now, with their second album, Closer, newly in the can, the band was preparing to embark on their first tour of North America, with dates scheduled at such venues as New York’s Hurrah, Tuts in Chicago, Duffy’s in Minneapolis (with a young local band called Hüsker Dü opening) and the Starwood in Los Angeles.

But all was not so well with Ian Curtis, Joy Division’s lead singer. Beset by relationship issues, stress over the band’s touring commitments and epileptic fits that seemed to be getting increasingly worse, Curtis hanged himself in the early hours of May 18th, 1980, just a few days before the band was due to leave for America. The surviving members of the band, reconstituted as New Order, would arrive on U.S. shores later in the year; but Curtis’ suicide deprived American audiences of ever experiencing the live power of Joy Division in person.

Photo of XTC (Photo by Virginia Turbett/Redferns)

Virginia Turbett/Redferns

XTC: U.S. Tour (1982)

To those who were lucky enough to witness it, XTC’s April 3rd, 1982, show at San Diego’s California Theater was apparently an absolute stunner. The first date of the band’s biggest U.S. headlining tour yet featured expertly rendered versions of songs from the English band’s new English Settlement LP, as well as favorites from previous albums Black Sea and Drums and Wires – and given the band’s masterful performance, no one in the house could have imagined that it would go down in history as the last show that XTC would ever play in front of a live audience.

The following night, however, a crippling combination of anxiety and stage fright caused frontman Andy Partridge to bail out of a sold-out gig at the Hollywood Palladium; Partridge headed back to England, forcing the band to cancel the rest of their tour, as well as a subsequent one planned for Europe and the U.K. While XTC would continue to release brilliant records for another 18 years, their existence as a live band was officially over. 

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