Farewell Tours 2018: Paul Simon, Elton John and More - Rolling Stone
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2018’s Biggest Farewell Tours

Everyone from Elton John to Ozzy Osbourne is launching a final trek this year. But will this really be the end?

farewell tours joan baez paul simon

We run down the biggest farewell tours of 2018, including Elton John, Paul Simon, Ozzy Osbourne and more.

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The farewell tour is one of the oldest tricks in the rock-star playbook. If fans are on the fence about whether or not to see a show, there’s no better way to cajole them than by saying this will be their final chance. And even though everyone from Kiss to Cher, Ozzy Osbourne, Tina Turner and Phil Collins have continued to tour after their supposed farewell treks – sometimes just about a year later – the gambit continues to work. It’s become an especially potent tool in recent years, as many key baby-boomer acts have reached their seventies and their threat to never tour again suddenly feels credible. Here’s a guide to six of the biggest farewell tours hitting the road this summer. 

farewell tours

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Lynyrd Skynyrd

Background: Few bands have walked a harder road than Lynyrd Skynyrd. A 1977 plane crash killed frontman Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backup singer Cassie Gaines. They reformed 10 years later with Ronnie’s brother Johnny on lead vocals, but since then they’ve slowly lost most of the original band. The only remaining member in the current lineup is guitarist Gary Rossington, though guitarist Rickey Medlocke was briefly a drummer in their pre-fame days. (Drummer Artimus Pyle and guitarist Ed King are still alive, but no longer in the band.) This summer, they are saying goodbye with the Last of the Street Survivors tour. “It’s hard to imagine, after all these years, the band that Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins and myself started back in Jacksonville, would resonate for this long and to so many generations of fans,” Rossington said in a statement. “I’m certain they are looking down from above, amazed that the music has touched so many.”

Odds It’s Real: 35 percent. The group has yet to announce an end date for this tour, though they claim it’s going to run for two years.  But audiences willing to shell out money to hear “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama” are never going to go away. Most of them care little about who is actually onstage as long as the ticket says “Lynyrd Skynyrd” and they play the hits. The group is really going to leave their money on the table after this tour wraps? It’s quite possible, but we have our doubts. 

farewell tours

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Joan Baez

Background: Joan Baez is retiring from the road at age 77 for a very practical reason: she’s losing her voice. “Nobody can really imagine the effort it takes to keep up with these vocal cords,” she told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “They don’t do what I want them to do anymore. When I stay in the low range, they do, pretty much. And I like the sound. But I can’t do shit in the upper range anymore.” Her Fare Thee Well tour wraps will keep her on the road through next March. She has yet to announce an end date.

Odds It’s Real: 90 percent. Baez has been a touring machine for decades, but her frank comments about the limitations of her voice are very credible. The strain of this long tour will likely only exacerbate the problem, and she’ll be pushing 80 by the time it’s over. She’ll probably become a figure like latter-day Peter Seeger for the rest of her life and pop up at numerous benefit shows and other special events, but her Fare Thee Well run seems like the real deal.

farewell tours

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Background: Metal bands – especially ones that play as fast and loud as Slayer – face a real predicament as they age. Is it really possible to headbang when you’re 60? Kerry King and Tom Araya have decided to not try and are retiring Slayer after an epic farewell tour. The group has yet to discuss the matter publicly, so it’s unclear if it’ll continue after the current run of dates wraps up December 2nd in Berlin. Will Slayer live on in some way? Will they welcome estranged drummer Dave Lombardo back onto the stage at any point before it ends? Right now, nobody seems to know.

Odd It’s Real: 50 percent. King and Araya can make a hell of a lot more money playing together then they can playing apart. In the grand scheme of aging rock stars, they are relatively young at the respective ages of 53 and 56. This might be the last tour for a very long time. It may even be the last one they ever do, but then again it might do what many a farewell tour has done in the past: pave the way for a reunion tour. 

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