- Nirvana “In Utero” Tour
Following the international success of their sophomore effort Nevermind, Nirvana found themselves going from small clubs to arenas across the globe in the matter of a year as they set off in support of what would be their final album, In Utero. The tour kicked off in Phoenix, where Cobain and co. participated in an MTV News interview that depicted the band as being in a happier place than they were two years prior, with Cobain remarking “…I was completely fed up with the whole thing. I didn’t want to be a rock star at all. It was just freaking me out, you know. But I’ve had two years to recuperate.” The highlight of the tour is undoubtedly the MTV Unplugged performance that took place on November 18, 1993. Sadly, this would be the band’s final tour.
- Pink Floyd “The Division Bell” Tour
After rehearsing in an airplane hangar in California, Pink Floyd kicked off the Division Bell tour to a sold out Miami crowd in 1994. From there the band would embark on what would become the highest grossing tour ever, bringing in approximately $250 million. While this would be quickly surpassed by The Rolling Stones, it still remains one of the most successful tours of all time. This also ended up being the final Pink Floyd tour.
- U2 “PopMart” Tour
While it is the band’s “Zoo TV” tour from the earlier part of the decade that most music critics revere as U2’s high point in both performance and spectacle, 1997’s “PopMart” Tour was designed to be an even more advanced technical production than its predecessor, and it succeeded. After studying some examples of new technology that had begun to break through in the mid 90’s, U2 decided to design arguably the most over the top stage setup up in music history up to that point, going with a theme that mocked consumerism. Some of the backdrops included an LED screen bigger than all of the screens used on the “Zoo TV” tour combined, a giant golden arch which held the PA speakers, and a very necessary giant lemon. It didn’t hurt that the group was touring in support of Pop, by far the group’s most underrated work. The tour featured a wide variety of opening acts, hosting everyone from Oasis to Smash Mouth.
- R.E.M. “Monster” Tour
The 1980’s were a busy decade for R.E.M., with a new album and coinciding tour nearly every year. After spending these years making their way up the ranks, they finally became an arena band during 1989’s “Green World Tour.” By the end of the tour they were exhausted and sick of playing for not entirely full arenas, so sick of it that they did not tour behind their next two records at all, save for a few acoustic shows to support 1991’s Out Of Time. In 1995, the band embarked on their first real tour in six years in support of 1994’s Monster, and it would prove to be another difficult excursion. Three of the four band members suffered some type of ailment, with drummer Bill Berry’s being the most serious, suffering a brain aneurysm on stage in Switzerland. Despite these major setbacks, the tour was still more successful than the previous “Green” tour and many positives came out of the journey. R.E.M. wrote most of Monster’s follow up, New Adventures In Hi-Fi on the road, and Radiohead opened for R.E.M. on many U.S. dates, introducing them to a wider audience and furthering paving the way for their eventual legacy.
- The Rolling Stones “Voodoo Lounge Tour”
Another band that is no stranger to extravagant, mammoth stage productions, The Stones set out to support their 1994 release Voodoo Lounge with two sold out shows at Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium. While it was the group’s Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle tour in 1989/1990 that cemented the band’s place as a worldwide stadium touring act, the band reached unprecedented commercial heights on the “Voodoo Lounge” tour, and it went on to become the highest grossing tour of the 90’s. To this day it is still the 9th highest grossing tour of all time. Opening acts included Blind Melon, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Stone Temple Pilots.
- Pearl Jam “Vitalogy” Tour
Pearl Jam have become known as one of the best live bands on the planet, for good reason. In 1995 though, the future was looking a bit questionable. It was the band’s first tour with new drummer Jack Irons, perhaps the only real positive from the tour (along with the powerful performances, of course). Most of the short excursion was marred by the band’s inability to work around the Ticketmaster fiasco, and the their flat out refusal to play any Ticketmaster venue. This made finding venues very difficult and the band was shocked that there were not any other artists as passionate about the issue as them. The issues culminated at a San Francisco stop where an ill Eddie Vedder was only able to get through seven songs before having to exit the stage. Neil Young took his place for the rest of the set, but the following dates had to be rescheduled. Since then the band has admitted their stubbornness on this tour, with bassist Jeff Ament commenting that “…it pretty much killed us, killed our career.”
- Oasis “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory? Tour”
This tour will goes down as one of the most important of all time from a cultural perspective. It represented the rise of the brit-pop phenomenon at a rapid pace, only to essentially end as quickly as it began with the tour’s finale. In between the beginning and the end of the tour there were many tabloid issues that made up a large chunk of music headlines, especially in Europe. Whether it be Liam Gallagher completely skipping out on a U.S. leg, Liam bailing out on Oasis’ MTV Unplugged performance minutes before they went on due to a “sore throat” or the band breaking up briefly in 1996, there was no shortage of drama from the Gallagher’s. The lows were low, but the highs were frankly unbelievable. At the beginning of the tour in the U.S. the band was performing at venues like New York City’s Roseland Ballroom and Los Angeles’ Viper Room, while less than a year later they were playing venues such as Jones Beach Amphitheater and Rosemont Horizon. Of course there were a few big European shows as well. Nearly 3 million people applied for tickets to the band’s Knebworth shows, and they played for 250,000 there over two nights. They also drew enormous crowds at stadiums such as Main Road in Manchester and Loch Lomond in Scotland.
- Guns N’ Roses “Use Your Illusion Tour”
Like Oasis on their “Morning Glory” tour, Guns N’ Roses found themselves playing the world’s largest stages despite being a relatively new band still. It would be this infamous tour that would cement the band’s legacy among live acts. It would also be the tour that ultimately tore the band apart. Even without the many memorable incidents that plagued the tour, the massive length it alone makes it noteworthy, performing 194 shows in 27 different countries. Some of the many incidents include riots generated by Axl Rose storming off the stage in St. Louis and Montreal, multiple altercations with fans, and heavy drug use by the entire band. However, say what you will about Guns N’ Roses and this tour in particular, one thing is for sure: we won’t ever see a true rock and roll tour like this ever again. The “Use Your Illusion Tour” was the epitome of rock and roll.
- Lollapalooza 1992
The fact is that every Lollapalooza in the 90’s had something interesting to offer, but I had to give 1992 the nod as number one. The lineup pretty much captures the peak of the 90’s alternative music scene all on one ticket. Main stage performers included Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ice Cube, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam, while a wide array of side stage acts were a part of the bill, including Porno For Pyros and Stone Temple Pilots. The festival began a year prior, but the 1992 tour really set it into motion and led it to become the legendary festival it’s known as today.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” Tour
This was a groundbreaking tour on many levels. It took RHCP to new heights of fame – which didn’t come without consequence, as it was one of the main reasons for guitarist John Frusciante’s resignation from the band. Despite this setback, the tour served as an opening for the alternative rock/grunge movement to breakthrough in the early part of the decade, with RHCP featuring opening acts such as Pearl Jam and The Smashing Pumpkins. This was a bit of a preview of the Lollapalooza tour to come, and RHCP did in fact incorporate a leg of the “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” tour into Lollapalooza 1992. While this might not be the technically “best” tour of the decade, it gets the number one spot because it essentially served as a launching pad for multiple groups that would skyrocket to fame either during or shortly after this tour.