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On The Road Again and Again: Classic Rock’s 2020 Touring Lineup (So Far)

The ultimate guide to the in-demand genre artists touring this year, and why they’re all must sees if you can afford it.

The Rolling Stones (No Filter)

The Stones performing at Soldier Field in 2019. Photo by Rob Grabowski.

I saw the Rolling Stones for the first time in 2015 under the blind impression that this would be their last live outing as a band. It wasn’t billed as a farewell, but their age and the overall hype of the evening seemed to speak to a conclusion of sorts. I, like so many other Stones fans over the years, was duped into thinking this band was ready to retire ala La-Z-Boy. As if Mick Jagger doesn’t have more energy in his big toe than I have in my entire body, or that Keith Richards isn’t already preparing to ride out the rest of the millennium.

It’s not only Stones fans who’ve had this thought. Many others on this list: The Who, KISS, Elton John, have all announced their retirement at some point in their careers, and inevitably returned as if said announcement was never spoken. Not even a fall from a coconut tree in Richard’s case, or Jagger’s heart valve surgery last year, play any obvious factors to the thought of a retirement. It’s just hardwired into the Stones’ DNA, in regards to both the paycheck and accompanying adrenaline.

Last week, The Stones announced new dates as a part of their ongoing No Filter Tour that began in 2017. Jagger, Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Charlie Watts will play 15 dates in North American stadiums this summer. It all kicks off May 8 in San Diego.

Beyond the coma-inducing ticket prices, expect to hear all the hits, and the occasional deep cut either by happenstance or through a fan vote online. Openers will vary by date. Some from last year’s tour include Gary Clark Jr., Des Rocs, and Lukas Nelson & Promise of The Real.

Roger Waters (This Is Not A Drill)

Roger Waters during the Us + Them Tour. Photo Courtesy of Facebook.

Expect the trolling of Trump to continue on what is sure to be the most politically charged tour of 2020. Roger Waters poked fun at the Commander in Chief on his last tour – Us + Them – potently displaying the words ‘TRUMP IS A PIG’ amid images that depicted Trump as a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), or as a women with big breasts among other unflattering portraits, during Pink Floyd’s “Pigs (Three Different Ones).

Waters will amp up that kind of rhetoric tenfold on his latest sensory experience, This Is Not A Drill, an in the round spectacle built around Pink Floyd’s most towering anthems and hits. He’ll bring the usual material from albums like The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, and Animals, with more gravitas.

“To be blunt, we need to change the way we organize ourselves as a human race or die. This tour will be part of a global movement by people who are concerned by others to affect the change that is necessary,” Waters said in a statement.

I would argue that Waters puts on one of the more stunning shows out of his classic rock counterparts. He pushes the narrative, the theater of it all. Whether that’s in his rhetoric against Trump, or the biting social commentary he brought to a new era with The Wall between 2010 to 2013.

Waters’ This Is Not A Drill Tour starts in Pittsburgh on July 8 before coming to 30 other US cities.

Elton John (Farewell Yellow Brick Road)

Elton John on the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. Photo by Ben Gibson.

Elton John had a pretty great 2019. He did just over 100 shows as part of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, had his life story told through a brilliant biopic/musical fantasy in Rocketman, and published his first autobiography, Me.

There’s no such thing as too much Elton, though he might argue against that. Elton’s spent his life on the road, trekking to continent after continent in more outrageous stage costumes than the last. But at this point in his life, he’s resolved that it’s time to take a step back from the hotels and backstage dressing rooms and spend more time at home with his two little ones, sons Elijah and Zachary.

Elton’s going out in true Elton fashion: big, bold, and beautifully. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to see him on this tour when he came to Pittsburgh in both 2018 and 2019. Beyond the incredible stage and fabulous bells and whistles, Elton lets his songs and musicianship take center stage. He has a remarkable band with him, with people he’s been working with for decades. Guitarist Davey Johnstone and drummer Nigel Olsson are fabulous, but percussionist Ray Cooper nearly steals the show when he’s given the spotlight.

It’s a show for generations of Elton fans, where anyone can find something that speaks to them in either the music or performance of it. Tickets are unfortunately really hard to come by as of late, but if you have the opportunity, I highly encourage it. Elton will be doing another US run from April through July.

The Who (Moving On!)

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who. Photo by Getty Images.

You would think a band down two original members would be limping along to the finish line at this point, but The Who are still in top form. Singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend have been carrying on as a two-piece for years. They’ve been consistent if not innovative, finding new ways to speak to their audience. They did a tour dedicated to Quadrophenia (an album largely about the plight between mods and rockers), put on a spectacular greatest hits show (what seemed to be their last outing), and are now touring with an orchestra.

The latter on that list (the Moving On! Tour) might bring some hesitation, but if anything, it gives The Who’s music an extra jolt. The orchestra breathes new life into selections from Tommy, Quadrophenia, and other hits, working oddly well on a song like “Eminence Front.” The orchestra may take up a large chunk of the stage, but it still belongs to Daltrey and Townshend every night.

Besides Jagger, Daltrey remains one of the most fit of his class. He still marches in place, twirling the microphone around his body, and sounds even better on this tour than he has in years. Townshend also still echoes his old movements, planning that windmill ever-so strategically. I’ve always admired The Who for their dedication and enthusiasm, they’re one of the Brit Rock invasion bands that never fully got their due. Sure, they’ve done pretty good in America, but they’ve never been able to reach the success of the likes of The Stones or Led Zeppelin (a band that Townshend famously said “copied” The Who).

Their songwriting is unparalleled among their peers, and they show that on their latest effort, Who, their 12th studio album. The Who briefly start up their Moving On! Tour again in America on April 21, and end in May with a 6-night Las Vegas residency.

KISS (End of the Road)

KISS on the End of the Road tour. Photo courtesy of Kiss Online.

KISS know how to put on a spectacle. Even if you’re not a fan, you can give them that. Their critics, though, make themselves readily known. Perhaps their music does favor style over substance, likening them to the McDonalds of rock if you will. But, hey, not every meal can be as nutritious as it is satisfying.

The End of the Road Tour is being labeled as KISS’s farewell: one last masterclass in live entertainment. Sure, we’ve heard this from the band before; take the farewell tour in 2001 with the original members for example, only a few years after their long awaited reunion tour. I hope it’s at least somewhat true this time because it would be a shame to see them crawl back after putting on such a celebration.

KISS practically invented the modern stage show as we know it: pyro, hydraulics, stage props, over-the-top imagery. Expect all of that in spades on the End of the Road Tour. Everything is bigger and better than before. Especially the pyro. I thought my eyebrows might be seared off from my spot on the floor at their Pittsburgh show last year (my eyebrows came out unscathed, but it looked like I had been crying over an ex-lover the way the eyeliner had melted around my eyes).

One of the bigger controversies of this tour is that frontman Paul Stanley has been accused lip syncing. I unfortunately feel their to be truth to this rumor considering my prime vantage point at the concert, but it honestly doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Perhaps I idolize KISS so much that I’m willing to ignore it; blind love at its purest. But the other members are definitely playing the part: Gene Simmons putting the tongue in all it’s glory, with drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer finally getting their due.

KISS are currently playing arenas through February, and will be returning to the US with the End of the Road Tour to play indoor and outdoor venues from August to October. Van Halen’s David Lee Roth will serve as opener.

Guns N’ Roses (2020 North American Tour)

Guns N’ Roses on the Not In This Lifetime Tour. Photo by Chicago Music Guide.

When Guns N’ Roses announced the Not In This Lifetime Tour in 2016, no one thought they’d be able to show up on time, let alone still be holding it together four years down the line. Beyond punctuality, they’ve put on a killer show first and foremost. I know a lot of people wouldn’t categorize them as classic rock, but they’ve always been the newer counterparts to the Rolling Stones – cast of characters, blues rock undertones, stadium ready rock – and are now around the age the Stones were when they took off in the late ’80s.

It sounds like the Not In This Lifetime Tour has officially wrapped up, with Guns N’ Roses embarking on a separate venture that will see them tour stadiums starting July 4 through late August. They play all the hits, including the songs they made their own hits (“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, “Live and Let Die”), along with those classic power ballads like “November Rain” and “Patience.” There’s even a lot of love for Chinese Democracy, the historically drawn out love child of Axl Rose.

It’s pretty heartwarming to see Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan back together after all the crap that they’ve been through, but the Jack Daniels bottle is still half full. I love Steven Adler, but he’s zany and unpredictable, so I get why he’s not involved. But Izzy Stradlin is sorely missed. He was the heart and soul of Guns N’ Roses to me. The core three are getting help from guys that have been with the band for years now, like keyboardist Dizzy Reed, guitarist Richard Fortus, and drummer Frank Ferrer, along with newcomer Melissa Reese.

Smashing Pumpkins will open select dates in July.

Ozzy Osbourne (No More Tours 2)

Ozzy performing in 2018. Photo by David Brendan Hall.

Ozzy Osbourne might as well be the bionic man at this point, or “Iron Man” more appropriately. Ozzy had to take some time off the road for issues related to phenomena last year, which pushed back his No More Tours 2 outing. He also recently revealed that he was diagnosed with a form of Parkinson’s disease last February. But he’s still planning on hitting the road this summer.

There have been jokes about Keith Richards outlasting a nuclear bomb for years, but maybe Ozzy is more indestructible. One of the last original metal titans, Ozzy will come with Black Sabbath and solo hits in tow, bringing along Marilyn Manson instead of the originally announced Megadeth (they’ll be out this year with Lamb Of God).

Ozzy says he’s eager to get back on the road again, but here’s hoping his health remains a top priority as we await the Prince of Darkness’s return.

Honorable Mentions

Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison, Joan Jett

Break out the spandex. The all-star lineup of 80s hair metal will be coming to stadiums and amphitheaters this summer, and has already sold out multiple dates.

The Eagles

Playing their album Hotel California in its entirety along with other hits. Vince Gill and Deacon Frey (Glenn Frey’s son) will be filling in for the late Eagle.

Lindsey Buckingham

His recently announced first tour since a heart surgery that resulted in vocal chord damage. Buckingham will play a short string of dates from April to May.

James Taylor & Jackson Browne

Get ready for a sweet, soothing evening with these Southern Californian sound-men. Browne will open up for Taylor and his all-star band this summer.

Alice Cooper, Tesla, Lita Ford

The Coop is consistently on the road. He had Halestorm open for his last summer tour. This time, he’ll bring along a hair raising metal band and guitar goddess.

Steely Dan & Steve Winwood

Wrap yourself in blissful melodies with this fabulous pairing. Donald Fagen continues to hold down the Dan, while Winwood bears the virtuoso musician brand well.

Possible Players

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Springsteen has already said that he’ll be taking the E Street Band with him this year, he just hasn’t said when. This comes after some remarkable solo efforts: his Broadway show, autobiography, and album Western Stars.

Bob Dylan

The “never ending tour” is likely to continue with Dylan expected to do a run of theater dates in late summer/fall like he typically does.

Paul McCartney

This one’s kind of a long shot considering that McCartney was just in the US last year, and his tour supporting Egypt Station looks to be on hold or wrapped up completely.

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