Summer 2015’s 30 Hottest Tours
Titans of rock (the Rolling Stones, the Who), country megastars (Shania Twain, Kenny Chesney) and pop's newest icons (Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran) are taking over stadiums, arenas and amphitheaters across North America this summer. The season is shaping up to be one of the biggest in biz history, and we have the ultimate guide to all the big tickets, from Nicki Minaj to Marilyn Manson to Dave Matthews Band.
5 Seconds of Summer
Dates: July 17th-September 13th
Opener: Hey Violet
Why You Should Go: 5 Seconds of Summer grew as a band by opening for One Direction across the world for two summers straight. The Australian pop-punkers have since found their own way, riding high on the success of their smash single "She Looks So Perfect" and self-titled debut. Now the quartet — who are all between the ages of 18 and 21 — have embarked on their first tour as headliners and are looking back to the Eighties for some arena-rock inspiration. "[I've] been watching a lot of [VH1's Behind the Music]," reveals lead singer Luke Hemmings. "Like the Guns N' Roses one, the Poison one, Bon Jovi. I've been looking to those bands and what they do with stages, like how Axl Rose will command a whole stadium." For the Rock Out With Your Socks Out Tour, Hemmings notes that their vibe is mostly to create a sense of intimacy with everything from the setup to the lighting. "It's an arena-level theater show."
Dates: August 22nd-September 25th
Why You Should Go: For their first tour without ailing guitarist Malcolm Young and beleaguered drummer Phil Rudd, the Aussie rockers have brought in two familiar hands: former drummer Chris Slade, who left the band in 1994, and Malcolm's nephew Stevie Young. And they are keeping the spirit of Malcolm with them: "Mal told me the only thing I gotta do is play," says Angus Young. "Anything else is a bonus. Music first, dance steps second!"
Bleachers & Charli XCX
Dates: July 21st-August 12th
Why You Should Go: "It makes sense in that it doesn't make sense," says Bleachers' Jack Antonoff, discussing the upcoming Charli and Jack Do America Tour. "Well, Charli is kind of on the outskirts of pop, and I sit on the outskirts of alternative, so I guess it makes sense within that." For his biggest tour yet with his once-modest side project, Antonoff is planning an entirely new show. "It looks like it could have been a great late-Seventies arena show," he says. "Everyone is overly obsessed with video walls and I want to be about what's happening on the actual stage." In addition to playing songs from last year's Strange Desire, Antonoff is planning to debut new songs from their "slightly more fucked-up-sounding" next album and sing some unexpected covers with his co-headliner. "Charli is a fucking blast, she really is," he says. "I'm hoping to use it as an excuse to cut loose a little bit and maybe act vaguely wild for me."
Dates: July 11th-October 17th
Openers: Pentatonix, Eric Hutchinson
Why You Should Go: American Idol will soon be off the air, but its original champ continues to thrive. After releasing her third Number One album this February, Clarkson is headlining a 36-date summer tour, stopping at venues as storied as Radio City Music Hall and as big as L.A.'s Staples Center (with a cappella superstars Pentatonix along for the ride).
Dates: Through August 29th
Openers: Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Jake Owen, Chase Rice (varies by date)
Why You Should Go: Chesney's tour is one of the most reliable of the summer – or it was, until he took 2014 off. The rest did him well: Last September, he released The Big Revival, his strongest, most urgent album in half a decade. Back in football stadiums, he'll be traveling North America with a rotating group of openers that includes others stars like Miranda Lambert, Jake Owen, Eric Church and Brantley Gilbert. Jason Aldean will co-headline 10 dates. (Go behind the tour in exclusive photos here.)
Dates: June 7th-25th
Why You Should Go: D'Angelo and his backing band, the Vanguard (which includes Who bassist Pino Palladino and former Time guitarist Jesse Johnson), have already played a short run of airtight shows mixing classic material, soul and funk covers and Black Messiah tracks — but D'Angelo plans to push the band even harder in rehearsals for their theater tour. "I just feel like it can always be better," he says. "I don't want to just have a good show — I want to have the best show you ever saw."
Dave Matthews Band
Dates: Through September 13th
Why You Should Go: For 24 summers in a row, since 1992, Dave Matthews Band have hit the road without fail, selling 19 million tickets over their full career. This summer, they're doing it all over again. "I'm excited about the idea of the smaller acoustic set and then an electric set," says Matthews. "I think it gives the band a chance to put some variety into the songs. I definitely want people to walk away thinking, 'That was almost cool.'"
Death Cab for Cutie
Dates: July 8th-October 5th
Openers: Built to Spill, Tune-Yards, the Antlers, Explosions in the Sky, Twin Shadow, Best Coast (varies by date)
Why You Should Go: Death Cab for Cutie's Kintsugi tour, which restarts in June after a series of spring warm-up dates, is the band's first since guitarist-producer Chris Walla left the band last fall. They're attempting to fill his shoes with two new members: guitarist Dave Depper and keyboardist Zac Rae. "We just get to be able to explore musical territory that we've never been able to do in the past," says bassist Nick Harmer, promising set lists that tweak old favorites and rotate in five or so songs from the new LP. "I think ultimately it'll translate to a better sounding show. We get to hear a lot of old material and a lot of new material in ways that we've never heard it before."
Dates: Through August 3rd
Why You Should Go: Drake doesn't have to do much to keep the world's attention, but that didn't stop him from scheduling a short, early-summer tour prior to his own OVO Fest in August. If his headlining performance at Coachella is any indicator, expect a lush set, lots of flames and surprise make-outs with music icons who released their first album in 1983. We'll be waiting for you, Thurston Moore.
Fall Out Boy & Wiz Khalifa
Dates: June 10th-August 10th
Opener: Hoodie Allen, Max
Why You Should Go: Last year, Fall Out Boy paired with Paramore and brought pop-punk to amphitheaters across the country. Their forthcoming Boys of Zummer tour will return to many of the same venues, but the band's approach will be almost entirely different. "We're going to do a less standard rock & roll show," singer Pete Wentz tells Rolling Stone. "On the last tour it felt really cool, but if we did it again it would be rehashing the same thing and you can kind of get caught in that." Hence their new co-headliner: "See You Again" rapper Wiz Khalifa. The combination may seem odd, but Wentz says that both artists have much in common: "He straddled hip-hop and pop the way we straddled pop and rock music. Him coming from Pittsburgh and us coming from the suburbs of Chicago, we both kind of grew in a lab and were able to create a culture."
Dates: July 13th-October 17th
Openers: Gary Clark Jr., Royal Blood, additional bands in each city
Why You Should Go: The North American leg of Foo Fighters' 2015 world tour opens on July 4th at Washington, D.C.'s RFK Stadium and continues with more baseball-park shows in New York, Boston and Chicago. "You'd be surprised how small you can make a stadium," says Dave Grohl. "We don't need the lasers and pyrotechnics. When you sing 'My Hero' or 'Best of You' and light up the crowd to get everybody to sing along, that's more powerful than any light show I've ever seen." The band's set lists will stretch deep into their 20-year catalog, including "things we haven't played in a long time," Grohl says. "If we're lucky, they'll let us play for three hours."
Dates: July 16th-October 15th
Opener: Prince Royce
Why You Should Go: Ariana Grande has dominated radio with an ease that makes it seem like she's a seasoned vet, but the Honeymoon Tour is Grande's first international headlining run. The last time the "Love Me Harder" singer played stadiums was back in 2013, when she joined Justin Bieber following the release of his Believe. Even with only two albums under her belt, Grande has enough ballads and bangers to fill a solo show — hopefully Justin gave her some pointers on how command the attention of thousands of screaming teens. Joining her will be Prince Royce, a bachata star who can make a crowd scream in both Spanish and English.
Dates: June 3rd-August 1st
Openers: Metric, Halsey
Why You Should Go: The Vegas rockers are working with Nine Inch Nails' production team on a high-tech show featuring 3D projections. "We're going to be playing with people's perspectives," says singer Dan Reynolds, "making them have to look twice."
Incubus & Deftones
Dates: July 22nd-August 30th
Openers: Death From Above 1979, the Bots
Why You Should Go: Alt-rock veterans Deftones and their "longtime homies" Incubus go so far back that the latter's singer, Brandon Boyd, refers to the groups' upcoming co-headlining trek as a "fun little high-school reunion." The bands grew up together heavily-dreadlocked in the Nineties California nü-metal scene, but they’ve both evolved musically (and cut their hair) since, so expect their sets to span skyscraping balladry and gauzy chill-outs as well as groove-centric mosh fodder. Adding to the eclecticism, two duos, Death From Above 1979 and the Bots, will open shows with their dance punk and garage punk, respectively. Incubus bassist Ben Kelley is eager to kick things off — if only so he can get in the Deftones' ears about playing his favorite song of theirs: "Street Carp." "They don't really like to play it!" he says. "[But] I have all summer to beg them for it."
Dates: June 24th-September 5th
Why You Should Go: Expect all the hits. "I want to be like Tom Petty," Kid Rock says, "playing an hour and a half of fucking great songs." As in 2013, he's charging $20 for most tickets. "Nobody got rich, but we made enough," he says. "Well, I got rich." (For many more quotes like this, don't miss The Killer Inside Kid Rock.)
Dates: May 30th-August 19th
Openers: Meek Mill, Tinashe, Rae Sremmurd, Dej Loaf
Why You Should Go: Nicki Minaj is one of rap's biggest personalities and sharpest talents, and her Pinkprint tour is the perfect excuse to show off both. With more than enough solo singles ("Super Bass," "Anaconda") and scene-stealing features ("Flawless," "Bang Bang") to squeeze in, her set list will play like an extended greatest hits. Four openers will come along for the ride: recent collaborators Meek Mill and Rae Sremmurd plus newcomers Tinashe and Dej Loaf. Minaj's Pinkprint-era look may be more subdued than that of Pink Friday, but the tour promises to be more turned up than ever.
Mumford & Sons
Dates: June 2nd-August 22nd
Openers: The Maccabees
Why You Should Go: Mumford & Sons' big challenge as they play amphitheaters, arenas and a headlining spot at Bonnaroo — plus several Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Festivals in out-of-the-way spots like Waverly, Iowa — will be figuring out how to adapt the electric sound of Wilder Mind to the stage. "A lot of these songs we haven't played since we put them down in the studio," says Marcus Mumford. "We've got a lot of work to do." That includes expanding the band's lineup with a new touring drummer. "We needed a few extra hands on deck, and we got someone amazing," says bassist Ted Dwane, who's especially excited about the change: "Being a bass player in a band without a drummer for eight years was kind of weird!"
New Kids on the Block
Dates: Through July 2nd
Openers: Nelly, TLC
Why You Should Go: New Kids on the Block haven't released new music since 2013, but on the Main Event Tour, they're playing alongside two surprising guests: TLC and Nelly. But the combination makes sense than initially appears. Although the NKOTB comeback has previously brought the group on the road with other man bands like Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees, the Kids have long been hip-hop fans — a previous opener was Donnie Wahlberg's rapping brother Marky Mark. Expect the nostalgia in troves.
Dates: July 9th-September 12th
Why You Should Go: One Direction began their On the Road Again Tour in February, but according to singer Niall Horan, the set list for the European and North American legs remains up in the air. "We will be rehearsing new songs which we are very excited to perform live for the first time," he says. "We always felt 'Clouds' has a real 'stadium' sound and is great to perform live. I also personally love 'Where Do Broken Hearts Go,' 'Little White Lies' and 'Girl Almighty.'" These dates will be some of 1D's first since Zayn Malik left the group in March, but Horan says that this will have little effect on the show: "[Fans] should expect the usual One Direction madness onstage."
Dates: May 21st-July 12th
Why You Should Go: Last summer, bachata king Romeo Santos proved his dominance with two solo shows at Yankee Stadium. When he comes to New York this year, the Bronx native will have to settle for three at Brooklyn's Barclays Center — tough life. Onstage, Santos is smooth and flirtatious, oozing charm while singing romantic hits like "Eres Mia" and "Propuesta Indecente." America will be quickly seduced.
Dates: Through September 10th
Openers: Foy Vance, Rixton, Christina Perri
Why You Should Go: For the first time ever, Sheeran is headlining stadiums with his acoustic tunes. "We first started talking about the possibility a couple of years ago," he says. "We’ve added some cool production to help fill out the stages as they grew in size, but ultimately it’s still just me and a guitar — which is pretty cool."
The Rolling Stones
Dates: May 30th-July 11th
Why You Should Go: "We are energized," says Keith Richards of the Stones' last few years on the road. "Once you're onstage, it's very familiar ground to me." On this tour, they're planning to sprinkle in rarities from their new reissue of 1971's landmark Sticky Fingers. It's even possible they'll play the whole album at some point, which they've never done. Says Mick Jagger, "It's not like doing Their Satanic Majesties Request."
Slipknot & Lamb of God
Dates: July 24th-September 5th
Openers: Bullet for My Valentine, Motionless in White
Why You Should Go: For the heaviest double-bill of the summer, look no further than metal titans Slipknot and Lamb of God. This year is big for both acts: Lamb of God are releasing their first album since lead singer Randy Blythe was acquitted of manslaughter charges, and Slipknot is recognizing the fifth anniversary of founding member Paul Gray's death.
Smashing Pumpkins & Marilyn Manson
Dates: July 7th-August 9th
Why You Should Go: Billy Corgan promises career-spanning sets when he tours with his old Nineties pal Marilyn Manson. But don't get it twisted: "Anyone who calls this a nostalgia tour doesn't know what the fuck they're talking about," Corgan says. "Believe it or don't — but if you don't, then you will miss something rare, which is three hours of really powerful music."
Dates: Through October 31st
Openers: Haim, Shawn Mendes, Vance Joy (varies by date)
Why You Should Go: Taylor Swift says she was on a mission to make her current arena and stadium tour every bit as much of a pop experience as last year's 1989 album. "I was very adamant that every decision I've made creatively in the past had to be almost flipped," Swift says. "You're not going to see me playing the banjo." Producer Max Martin was enlisted to teach her live band how to re-create the 1989 sound. The set list draws most from the record but also includes revamped versions of some old favorites — "'Love Story,' 'I Knew You Were Trouble' and 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' are completely different," Swift says.
Dates: June 5th-August 24th
Openers: Gavin DeGraw (U.S.), Wes Mack (Canada)
Why You Should Go: When Shania Twain's two-year run in Las Vegas concluded in December, the 49-year-old pop-country hitmaker knew her performing days were almost over. "I just feel like there are so many other things to do musically," says Twain. This summer, she'll bid farewell not in a casino theater but with the Rock This Country trek, which launches June 5th in Seattle. "I thought it would be more satisfying to end it on tour and not in a static environment," she continues, promising a show emphasizing the guitar-heavy country music she recorded with producer and then-husband Mutt Lange. "I want to focus more on the rock vibe and the punch and edge that the music naturally has. I'm going to stick to the hits and let the energy go and rock."
Dates: Through July 31st
Why You Should Go: The last time U2 went out on the road, they built a spaceship — the 29,000-square-foot "Claw" that was the centerpiece of their 2009-'11 world tour. This time around, they're playing through custom PA system that employs speakers hung from the ceiling spread evenly throughout the venue. "Everyone up to this point, us included, has always put all the speakers at one end of the stage and blasted all the sound the full length of the venue," says the Edge. "With this, you sit no further than 50 feet from a set of speakers." The show, which opened last week in Vancouver, is also Bono's first since a serious bicycle crash left the 55-year-old unable to wield his instrument. "I miss his guitar playing," says the Edge. "I particularly miss it when I have to go into a solo and there's no Bono there to back me up. I'm like, 'Oh, shit. This is quite a different thing.'"
Dates: July 5th-October 4th
Opener: Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
Why You Should Go: In celebration of Van Halen's first live album to feature vocals from David Lee Roth, the hard rock band has planned a hefty tour that will cross North America. Performances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Ellen previewed the unerring energy that they'll be bring to these summer dates. In fact, the singer had been so enthusiastic on Kimmel that he needed to get stitches following a baton incident that occurred on air. Even more irresistible: the promise of another new studio album, something guitarist Eddie Van Halen has hinted at in recent interviews.
Dates: Through November 4th
Openers: Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Why You Should Go: To celebrate their 50th anniversary, the Who are spending the year on the road with an ambitious show that mixes in deep cuts like "Pictures of Lily" and "A Quick One, While He's Away." "I know this is the last big tour we'll ever do," says Roger Daltrey (Pete Townshend, however, isn't so sure). "We have to be realistic. I want us to stop at the top of our game when we are still really good at what we do."
Dates: July 5th-24th
Openers: Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Band of Horses, Puss N Boots
Why You Should Go: Neil Young's upcoming protest album The Monsanto Years was recorded with Willie Nelson's sons Mikah Nelson as Lukas Nelson, as well as their backing band Promise of Real. They're nearly 50 years younger than Young, but they found an intense musical connection they plan on bringing to amphitheaters all across North America. A rehearsal show at California bar featured the entire new album along with Young classics like "Country Home," "Walk On" and "Down by the River," but trying to predict what Young will want to play this summer, or even if the tour will go past these initial dates, is impossible to know. "Neil could call me up right now and say, 'We're doing a show in Iraq tomorrow,'" says Micah. "We'd be like, 'OK! Here we go.'" No matter what happens, the Nelson boys are extremely pumped. "As much as you can imagine how fun it would be, just amplify that by 10,000," says Lukas. "And that's close to how we feel as a band. It's almost spiritual."