Best Tours of 2014
Rock’s best 2014 tours often worked on a theme — sad goodbyes, loving looks back, a joyous homecoming. Then, there were the ones who simply plugged in and played, the ones slowed by illness, the ones we never saw coming. It was quite a year.
We enjoyed the homecoming with Fleetwood Mac, as they returned with their classic-era lineup for the first time in more than 15 years. We cheered for Paul McCartney, who struggled through a portion of his 2014 tour before rallying. (The same couldn’t be said for ZZ Top, however, despite a promising start on a tandem tour with Jeff Beck. They’ll play some of those now-rescheduled shows next year.)
We reminisced with John Fogerty, who explored Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s most productive era; and with Sammy Hagar, who took us on a “Journey through the History of Rock.” We turned it up with Kiss and Def Leppard as they dug out old favorites, and we said farewell to Motley Crue and the Allman Brothers Band. Both stopped touring, but not before offering some of their most memorable shows ever.
How did they rank among Rock’s Best 2014 Tours? Here’s our list …
Queen with Adam Lambert
Queen and Adam Lambert finally turned their attentions to North America, having only appeared together on a series of overseas dates since first collaborating on 2009’s ‘American Idol’ finale. Lambert, Brian May and Roger Taylor played a month of dates this summer, blending songs both familiar and obscure (‘Love Kills!’) along the way. Whether this is Queen’s final tour remained a question mark, however, as May — in an opening press conference — said, “Let’s rock those beautiful arenas just one more time.”
When it finally got back on track, Paul McCartney’s canny concert mixture of big hits and songs from the well-received ‘New’ quickly found a home on this list of Rock’s Best 2014 Tours. His dates in the U.S. were initially pushed back two weeks to early July, however, after McCartney was forced to cancel a string of shows in Japan and South Korea when he contracted a virus. He was hospitalized for nearly a week. Upon his return, McCartney unleashed a nearly three-hour marathon of music. A subsequent August stop at Candlestick Park in San Francisco proved emotional, as it happened nearly 48 years to the day of the Beatles‘ last-ever concert there. The show was the final event at the stadium before it is torn down.
Sammy Hagar assembled yet another all-star tour, working with a new lineup of bandmates featuring Michael Anthony and Jason Bonham during select appearances in 2014. That gave Hagar a chance to present “A Journey through the History of Rock,” including songs from Van Halen and Led Zeppelin. The idea grew out of a loose jam session, according to Anthony — a member of both Chickenfoot and Van Halen with Hagar — and it kept that vibe throughout the tour. They also touched on Hagar’s solo material, and songs from his time in Montrose.
ZZ Top / Jeff Beck
An admittedly offbeat pairing, Jeff Beck’s summer shows with ZZ Top ended up working brilliantly — while it lasted. Beck kicked off the evening, followed by ZZ Top, and then a concert-concluding team-up. Highlights for this entry in our list of Rock’s Best 2014 Tours included Beck’s gospel-tinged Sam Cooke cover ‘A Change is Gonna Come,’ and a terrific take on Jimi Hendrix‘s ‘Little Wing.’ That is, until Dusty Hill took a nasty fall inside the band’s tour bus, injuring his hip. ZZ Top was forced to leave the tour with more than a dozen shows to go. Beck played some of the remaining dates, and others were rescheduled for 2015. Hill remained in good spirits despite the mishap — joking that wants to add Slim Harpo’s ‘Hip Shake’ to the set list for the next round of dates.
John Fogerty had a big year celebrating 1969, itself a year that turned out to be Creedence Clearwater Revival’s most renown. He hit nearly 20 U.S. cities last summer, then headed to Canada in the fall. Fans were treated to solo takes on three classic albums — ‘Bayou Country,’ ‘Green River’ and ‘Willy and the Poor Boys.’ All became multi-platinum hits, led by ‘Green River,’ while providing a series of concert favorites to sing along with — including ‘Proud Mary,’ ‘Bad Moon Rising,’ ‘Lodi,’ ‘Down on the Corner’ and ‘Fortunate Son,’ among others. In 1969, the Fantasy label only released four records — and, incredibly, three of them were by CCR.
Aerosmith / Slash
The name said it all, as Aerosmith and Slash unleashed the ‘Let Rock Rule’ tour this summer. How’s this for rock ‘n’ roll? Joe Perry teased the upcoming tour and the announcement of their shared dates by spray-painting a number of walls in Los Angeles. A cool club date at the Whisky kicked things off, showcasing a fun collaborative attitude. The tour actually brought Slash full circle. He and Guns N’ Roses opened up for Aerosmith across North America on their first major tour in the summer of 1988. Fans from that era received a special treat when Duff McKagan joined his former GNR bandmate Slash on stage in Gorge, Wash.
Christine McVie sealed her long-awaited return to Fleetwood Mac when she kicked off a 33-city North American jaunt in September, marking the band’s first dates with its classic-era lineup since 1998. Dubbed ‘On with the Show,’ the tour found McVie restoring some of Fleetwood Mac’s most recognizable hits, including ‘Little Lies,’ ‘You Make Loving Fun,’ ‘Songbird,’ ‘Everywhere’ and — with Lindsey Buckingham — made ‘Don’t Stop’ a duet again. “Our songbird is back,” Mick Fleetwood enthused on opening night. McVie is also writing new songs for an upcoming Fleetwood Mac project, though there’s no word yet on a possible release date.
Kiss / Def Leppard
Kiss and Def Leppard did indeed storm through a long-rumored, belatedly confirmed North American tour this summer. (Of course, for most of a year everyone thought that Def Leppard was going to tour with Poison, but that’s another story.) As you’d expect, the set lists were largely packed with famous songs such as ‘Photograph’ and ‘Rock and Roll All Nite.’ But both groups, particularly Kiss, also had some setlist surprises in store. For Def Leppard, that meant pulling out ‘Let It Go,’ the opening track from their 1981 album ‘High & Dry.’ Kiss, meanwhile, returned ‘King of the Night Time World’ to show-opening status for the first time in five years, and even dusted off the late ’80s single ‘Hide Your Heart’ early in the set. ‘Psycho Circus‘ also once again accompanied Paul Stanley‘s nightly flight into the audience, too.
Allman Brothers Band
The Allman Brothers Band played their last live shows ever in 2014, finishing a remarkable career at the place that has become a second home to them, New York City’s Beacon Theatre. The surprise exits in January of both Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks precipitated this sudden retirement — but their subsequent shows were anything but rocking-chair affairs. Highlights included a stop at Mountain Jam in June, where the group performed its classic first two albums in their entirety. The Allman Brothers Band left the stage having played the Beacon a total of 232 times since beginning annual residences there in 1989. Each of the principal members returned to side projects, with Gregg Allman saying “45 years is enough, and I want to do something else, anyway. Everyone has their own real good perspective bands.”
Motley Crue / Alice Cooper
When Motley Crue announced ‘The Final Tour,’ our top entry for Rock’s Best 2014 Tours, they really meant it. Members even signed an official “Cessation of Touring Agreement” in front of reporters. But that doesn’t mean they mailed these final shows in. Quite the contrary, in fact. From their explosive — literally — stage design to the inclusion of shock-rock opener Alice Cooper, Motley Crue showed they could still put on a huge show — even if they kicked things off with a winking ‘R.I.P.’ theme. (The tour announcement found Crue members seated behind their own mock tombstones, after having arrived inside a hearse.) On stage, they were accompanied by as many fireballs as they were gyrating girls. Musically, Cooper’s song selections included ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy,’ ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ and ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’ before closing with ‘School’s Out.’ Motley Crue, meanwhile, offered their own career-spanning set — complete with another dizzying drum solo from Tommy Lee — before ending with a moment as expected as it was emotional, ‘Home Sweet Home.’