With the economy in the crapper and even some of the biggest acts in music struggling to sell out ampitheaters, it's no wonder that many acts are hitting the road on package tours this summer. Fans might be sick of seeing Kiss or Mötley Crüe alone, but throw them together and it becomes more enticing. It's like a struggling restaurant throwing in a free appetizer and dessert onto the price of the entree. Simply speaking, the bigger the artist the smaller the other act on the bill needs to be in order to fill the venue. Aerosmith needs a Cheap Trick, Rod Stewart needs a Stevie Nicks and Bruce Springsteen needs nobody. But if you're the Gin Blossoms, you need Sugar Ray and Marcy Playground and Everclear and Lit, and even then some markets will probably be soft. Here's a guide to nine of the summers biggest package tours.
Target Audience: People who think that music peaked during that magical summer of 1981. Charles and Diana were getting married, MTV was launching and Loverboy were poised to take over the world. Meanwhile, Journey had just released their album Escape featuring a little song called "Don't Stop Believin'" and Pat Benatar was America's newest sex godess. This is also a show for anyone who thinks that headband never went out of style, because nobody rocks a headband like Benatar and Loverboy's Mike Reno.
Missing Members: Pat Benetar is still with her husband/guitarist Neil Giraldo, and Loverboy has every living member of the classic lineup besides bassist Scott Smith, who tragically drowned off the coast of San Francisco in 2000. Journey is a more complicated story. Singer Steve Perry hasn't toured with the group since 1986, and drummer Steve Smith split in 1998. A Perry-less Journey may seem unimaginable, but new singer Arnel Pineda does an amazing job.
Likely Highlight: The place will go nuts for "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Love Is A Battlefield," but don't overlook Loverboy. Who doesn't love "Working For The Weekend?"
Target Audience: People who hated punk just as much as they hated disco. Fans at this show spent the punk revolution blasting their eight tracks of "Cat Scratch Fever," "Come Sail Away" and "Keep On Loving You." The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Ramones are no more, but these bands tour every single summer.
Missing Members: Styx is down to just guitarists Tommy Shaw and JY Young, though bassist Chuck Panozzo does sit in on occasion. They haven't played with original vocalist Dennis DeYoung since the late 1990s, and that's unlikely to change anytime soon. REO Speedwagon are pretty much intact, though drummer Alan Gratzer no longer tours with the band. Ted Nugent recently reunited with Derek St. Homes, the voice of "Stranglehold" and many other early classics.
Likely Highlight: Styx has played "Renegade" and "Come Sail Away" about six thousand times, but the fans keep coming back for more. REO Speedwagon usually close with "Ridin' The Storm Out," but we're most looking forward to "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Stranglehold." The Nuge has some crazy political views, but he remains an amazing guitar player.
Target Audience: This one is for people who think that the rock peaked in 1988. That's when Lita Ford released her breakthrough hit "Kiss Me Deadly," Poison dropped "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" and Def Leppard were touring the world behind Hysteria. Nobody had any clue that a handful of guys from Seattle were about to come and ruin all the fun.
Missing Members: Poison is one of the few hair metal bands to still have all their original members. Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark died in 1991, but all four other originals remain. Lita Ford is, of course, still Lita fuckin' Ford. She doesn't need anybody else to be awesome. This line-up is missing Extreme though. Gary Cherone recently told us they were dropped from the tour. Then there were rumors that Joan Jett was going to be on the bill, but it turned out to be Ford, her former Runaways bandmate.
Likely Highlight: Haven't we all heard "Pour Some Sugar On Me" enough at this point? "Rock of Ages," "Talk Dirty To Me," "Photograph" and "Unskinny Bop" will certainly kill, but so will "Kiss Me Deadly." Who can hate on a song that begins with these lines: "I went to a party last Saturday night/I didn't get laid, I got in a fight."
Target Audience: Anyone who saw arena rock shows in the mid- to late-1970s should dig this show. Aerosmith and Cheap Trick rocked the shit out of every arena in the country back then, though both fell sharply off by the mid-1980s. They both soon came back with the help of outside songwriters and MTV-ready videos, though Cheap Trick's return was brief and Aerosmith managed to keep filling arenas, despite the complete lack of new music during the past decade.
Missing Members: Aerosmith and Cheap Trick both lost some key members in the early 1980s, but in both cases they came back fairly quickly. Against all odds, Aerosmith still tours with its complete classic line-up. Cheap Trick, sadly, no longer tours with drummer Bun E. Carlos. Daxx Nielsen, son of guitarist Rick Nielsen, is now the touring drummer. Still, eight of the nine members of Aerosmith and Cheap Trick will be on this tour. That ain't too shabby.
Likely Highlight: It's pretty tough with this one since the show will be pretty much wall-to-wall audience-pleasing hits. "Dream On" and "Sweet Emotion" will get everyone out of their seats, but so will "Surrender" and "I Want You To Want Me." Aerosmith are a bigger band, but the members of Cheap Trick actually like each other and they play with as much energy as they ever did.
Target Audience: People who like big hair, big choruses, big explosions, loose leathery women and bands not afraid to write songs explicitly about explicit sex. Motley Crue's rise happened right around the time that Kiss collapsed, and in the 1990s Kiss rose again a few years after Motley Crue fell off the map. But then Kiss reneged on their farewell pledge, lost two members and now both bands are pretty much evenly popular. They've both also over-toured in recent years and thus can no longer fill large venues on their own.
Missing Member: Motley Crue have been touring with their original line-up ever since 2005, but Kiss are now minus drummer Peter Criss and guitarist Ace Frehley. Much to the chagrin of many Kiss fans, they have Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer wearing their predecessors' make-up. Thayer is from a Kiss cover band and he knows the parts cold, but it just isn't the same.
Likely Highlight: Kiss have pulled off their patented tricks (fireballs, spitting blood, swinging above the audience) so many times that they're starting to wear thin. That said, it's hard not to love "Detroit Rock City" and "Cold Gin." Motley Crue's music has aged much better than most of their former hair metal rivals, and "Shout At The Devil" and "Kickstart My Heart" are pretty much classic rock songs these days.
Target Audience: Alice Cooper puts on an incredible show, but the vast majority of this crowd would show up if Raffi were the opener. Iron Maiden are a genre onto themselves. They have zero hit songs and zero casual fans, but they can fill any arena in America – and any stadium outside of America. Promoters need to do nothing but let Iron Maiden announce the gig, and then watch it sell out.
Missing Member: Alice Cooper has been a solo artist since the mid-1970s, and Maiden has been playing with the classic line-up ever since vocalist Bruce Dickinson came back to the band in 1999.
Highlight: The crowd will go equally insane for every song "Iron Maiden" plays, but they might amp it up a little more for "The Number Of The Beast" and "Iron Maiden."
Target Audience: Fans of late 1970s/early 1980s AOR rock. The two singers may not seem to have much in common, but both started as the singers of big rock bands of the 1970s. Both quickly launched hugely successful solo careers, and then walked away from their groups.
Missing Members: This is a rare case of two solo acts sharing the stage this summer, so this obviously doesn't apply. Mick Fleetwood has voiced frustration with Stevie Nicks for prioritizing her solo career in recent years, and the Faces also yearn for a reunion with Rod. But for now they're out on their own.
Highlight: Stevie tends to come out early in Rod's set for "Young Turks" and "Leather and Lace," but then Rod tends to close out his show with "Do You Think I'm Sexy?"
Target Audience: This tour is for people who feel that music reached for perfection in 1972, right as "Listen to the Music" and "Saturday in the Park" climbed into the Top 10. These groups may not be very "cool" these days and they may be missing "key members," but they work their asses off every summer pounding out those hits.
Missing Members: There's too many to name, but the Doobie Brothers no longer have Michael McDonald and Chicago has been without Peter Cetera for quite some time.
Likely Highlight: Sadly, the Karate Kid II song "The Glory of Love" was a Peter Cetera solo song, so they won't be doing that. Same goes for "I Keep Forgettin'." That was Michael McDonald solo. But the Doobies are sure to bust out "China Groove," "Listen to the Music" and "Takin' it to the Streets" and "What a Fool Believes." Likewise, no Chicago concert would be complete without "Saturday in the Park," "25 or 6 to 4," "Just You 'N' Me" and "If You Leave Me Now."
Target Audience: Fans of early 16th century lute music…we're kidding. This is the most Nineties-tastic tour in the long history of 1990s nostalgia. Many people probably wouldn't see these acts on their own, but together they form the ultimate Nineties-monster that 30-somethings will be unable to resist.
Missing Members: The Gin Blossoms have been without Doug Hopkins (who penned many of their best songs) since 1992. He committed suicide shortly after leaving the group. Earlier this year drummer Phillip Rhodes left the group. Sugar Ray has also parted ways with bassist Murphy Karges and drummer Stan Frazier. We'll leave it up to you to research who's left in Marcy Playground, Lit and Everclear.
Likely Highlight: The Gin Blossoms and Sugar Ray have the most hits, but Marcy Playground have "Sex and Candy" and Lit have "My Own Worst Enemy." Those are two of the most 1990s songs in the entire decade and they should bring the house down every night.
Target Audience: Rock fans with such an insatiable appetite for 1990s nostalgia that the Gin Blossoms/Sugar Ray tour just isn't enough. To be fair, these groups are a little less mainstream than that package tour. Your average Sugar Ray fan probably can't name a single song by Big Head Todd & The Monsters. Also, the cool kids from your eighth grade class in 1995 will really dig this one.
Missing Members: The biggest absence on this whole tour is Barenaked Ladies singer Steven Page. He quit the group in 2009, just a year after he was busted with cocaine and marijuana. Ed Robertson always handled a lot of the vocals and he's still in the band, so they aren't critically wounded without Page. It's just not the ideal line-up at the moment. Original Blues Traveler bassist Bobby Sheehan died in 1999, but the classic line-up is otherwise intact – though John Popper has lost so much weight that you might not recognize him these days. Cracker got a new bassist in 2006, but otherwise still have their 1990s roster. "Big Head" Todd Park Mohr still has the bulk of his 1990s Monsters.
Likely Highlight: The Barenaked Ladies will have everyone on their feet for "Brian Wilson" and "One Week," while Blues Traveler are sure to bust out "Run-Around" and "Hook." Our pick for highlight, however, is "Low" by Cracker. If that doesn't ring a bell, go look it up on YouTube. It'll come back to you after about two seconds. They somehow capture the essence of the entire 1990s in those two seconds.