The 21 Biggest Rock Acts Who Haven’t Toured Since COVID Hit
The pandemic didn't end in 2021 — in fact, a crop of variants only emphasized just how difficult the virus would be to shake. But for a number of reasons too myriad to unpack here, the live-music motor revved back up in COVID Year Two: major tour announcements, a chunk of big-draw festivals, numerous bands finally fulfilling their postponed concert plans. If you squinted hard enough, it almost looked like the Before Times.
But many of rock's biggest acts stayed off the road for another year — for reasons of safety, logistics, general activity or, frankly, because they probably wouldn't have toured anyway. And in some cases, we just don't know. But as 2021 reaches an end, let's look back at 21 such bands and artists, highlighting their last major performances and previewing what they may be planning next.
By the end of AC/DC's Rock or Bust tour in 2016, singer Brian Johnson had stepped aside for health concerns; drummer Phil Rudd had been replaced due to legal issues; and bassist Cliff Williams had announced his retirement. But all three classic-era members rejoined guitarists Angus and Stevie Young to record their 2020 comeback LP, Power Up.
Obviously the timing wasn't great for a tour. “We talked about playing some shows,” Williams told Rock 100.5 Atlanta in October 2020. “When we got together to shoot a video and do some rehearsals, it was with an idea of playing some shows. Unfortunately, we all went home after that rehearsal and conversations, and then this damn virus hit, so it was never taken any further. So, like everybody, everything in on the shelf. But we would love to get out and play again.”
The group's most recent show took place Sept. 20, 2016, in Philadelphia, wrapping with “For Those About to Rock We Salute You."
Paul McCartney has been a road warrior even in his 70s, playing marathon shows packed with the usual hits and pyrotechnics. But the pandemic halted that momentum: He canceled a European tour in summer 2020 and hasn't toured since. (He did, however, manage to record a new album, McCartney III.)
“We were looking forward to seeing you all this summer for what we know would have been much fun," he wrote in a statement. "The band and I are so sorry we can’t be with you, but these are unprecedented times and the well-being and safety of everyone is the priority. I hope you are all keeping well as we look forward to the brighter times ahead. We will rock again. Love, Paul”
McCartney hasn't commented about what, if any, "brighter times" might be ahead in 2022. But in better times, he played his most recent show on July 13, 2019, in Los Angeles — recruiting Joe Walsh for a closing medley of “Golden Slumbers” / “Carry That Weight” / “The End."
Ringo Starr had big plans for 2020, but the pandemic forced his All Starr Band to delay a planned tour to 2021. “This is very difficult for me,” he wrote in a statement. "In 30 years I think I’ve only missed two or three gigs, never mind a whole tour. But this is how things are for all of us now. I have to stay in just like you have to stay in, and we all know it’s the peace and loving thing we do for each other."
But the North American trek was bumped once again — as of this writing, it's set to launch in May and run through late June. The former Beatle, who released his Zoom In EP in March, hasn't played a traditional live show since Sept. 1, 2019, in Los Angeles. For the gig's finale, he packed the stage with familiar faces — including Walsh, Edgar Winter, Jim Keltner and Nils Lofgren — for a version of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends."
Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend managed to wrap the Moving On! Tour just in time, following the Who's symphonic shows with a few acoustic club dates in February 2020. They've stayed off the road from that point, and their future plans remain unclear.
One thing is definite: They won't do a 50th-anniversary tour celebrating Who’s Next. “I don’t see the point,” the singer told Rolling Stone in October. “Who’s Next is a great album, but it’s best left as a great album. Just playing albums live doesn’t do anything for me, personally."
While the band hasn't announced any dates, Daltrey has a solo U.K. jaunt booked for June 2022. Surveying the prospect of another traditional Who trek, Townshend told Guitar Player in July, “It could be tricky. I think Roger just wants to get out and use his voice. And so it feels to me like what he'll want to do is play catch-up with touring. … But I don't know the extent to which I will be willing to tour the way we have been touring in recent years, although I have been finding it easy, and I've been finding it interesting.”
As of now, the last Who show took place in Kingston Upon Thames, England on Feb. 14, 2020. Daltrey and Townshend closed with a stripped-down duet of "Won't Get Fooled Again."
Like many bands unable to properly tour during the pandemic, Bon Jovi have been creative with their opportunities: playing various one-off spots, at-home late-night appearances and livestreams. (They even released a concert this past summer to select drive-ins and cinemas.)
In a March interview with Gary Kemp and Guy Pratt's Rockonteurs podcast, singer Jon Bon Jovi looked ahead to how they might approach future touring. “I had a conversation about [playing in] Australia a year from now," he reportedly said. "As long as we do it in a manner that’s pleasurable, we want to do some dates. Because I just don’t see me doing 100-show tours any more. It’s not really motivational for me." Meanwhile, in November, the frontman canceled a scheduled solo appearance after testing positive for COVID-19.
The group's most recent major performance took place Oct. 2, 2019, in Lima, Peru. That gig closed with a version of their signature song "Livin' on a Prayer."
Neil Young has stayed busy during the pandemic — most notably by releasing his 41st album, Barn, recorded with backing band Crazy Horse. But he hasn't played any traditional shows during that time, and recent comments suggest it might be quite some time until that changes.
"I’m not ready," he told Rolling Stone in December. "I haven’t seen anything that makes me feel like going on. If you’ve got people being tested at the door, and you have to have vaccination proof to enter the building and new viruses are coming up … what are we talking about? Why don’t we just stop trying to do all this shit and just let it go until we get it straight and get it under control? It’s not under control. We’re so used to getting everything we want when we want it. It’s a service-and-please industry and a way of life. In my opinion, we have to step back and try to unite, and do something together as a race of people. All of us, the human race. We just need to get together."
He added, "I don’t want to put people in danger. I don’t want people to see me out there and think I think everything is OK. I don’t think everything is OK. I would hope that when I do come back and start playing again ... that everything is safe, but things have to be under control and going in one direction for a while before I’m going to go out and play."
Young's last traditional show took place Sept. 14, 2019, at the benefit Harvest Moon: A Gathering in Lake Hughes, Calif. Norah Jones guested during the performance, including the last two songs, "Harvest Moon" and "The Losing End."
Iron Maiden halted their Legacy of the Beast Tour as the pandemic took hold. "Due to the continuing health issues worldwide around COVID-19, we regretfully inform you that Iron Maiden will now not be playing any concerts until June 2021," band manager Rod Smallwood wrote in a statement.
Then the group postponed once more, reviving the trek for a 23-date North American run in 2022. The outing currently kicks off Sept. 11 in El Paso, Texas, and concludes Oct. 27 in Tampa — more than a year after the release of their latest LP, Senjutsu.
Singer Bruce Dickinson — whose solo spoken-word run launches in January — wants to bring out some deep cuts onstage: "I'd love to do one or two rarities – I'd love to do 'The Prisoner' again, 'Stranger in a Strange Land,' stuff like that," he told The Eddie Trunk Podcast in September. "I like things that have a little bit of groove to them.”
As of 2021, the band's latest show took place Oct. 15, 2019, in Santiago, Chile, ending with "Run to the Hills."
In November 2019, Motley Crue ceremoniously demolished their "Cessation of Touring Agreement," which they'd signed at a 2014 press conference around their supposed farewell tour. But the jaunt never got off the ground: The Stadium Tour — also featuring Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett —was originally scheduled to kick off in June 2020 but was later delayed until summer 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then again to 2022.
"This is the only way to ensure that we can play all of the dates for all of you who have purchased tickets," the bands wrote in a joint statement.
Motley Crue's most recent show was the last date of their "Final Tour": Dec. 31, 2015, at Staples Center in Los Angeles, closing with "Home Sweet Home."
In July, Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen predicted the four bands' mega-tour venture had a "50/50" chance of commencing in 2021. "I honestly don't know,” he told SiriusXM's Trunk Nation. "If everyone does what they are supposed to do, then we will be there next summer." That did not happen, but 2022 is better than never.
The band's most recent show took place Nov. 2, 2019, at Toyota Amphitheatre in Wheatland, Calif., wrapping with "Photograph."
In the early pandemic months, it was hard to speculate about the future of touring. But from day one, Poison singer Bret Michaels prioritized safety over ticket sales: "We all would have to make that decision together," he told Jenny McCarthy on her SiriusXM show in April 2020. "And I think you do it when it's right and it's safe, because the first thing that matters is health is number one."
The band last played July 1, 2018, at the Hard Rock Event Center in Hollywood, Fla., closing with a cover of Kiss' "Rock and Roll All Nite."
Stevie Nicks had several festival dates booked for 2021, but she changed course in August due to COVID-19 concerns.
“These are challenging times with challenging decisions that have to be made," the singer tweeted. "I want everyone to be safe and healthy, and the rising COVID cases should be of concern to all of us. While I’m vaccinated, at my age, I am still being extremely cautious, and for that reason have decided to skip the five performances I had planned for 2021. Because singing and performing have been my whole life, my primary goal is to keep healthy so I can continue singing for the next decade or longer. I’m devastated, and I know the fans are disappointed, but we will look towards a brighter 2022.”
Despite her optimism, Nicks' calendar is currently blank. Her most recent show took place Jan. 17, 2020, at the American Express golf tournament in La Quinta, Calif., closing with a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll."
Unsurprisingly, given Nicks' recent itinerary, Fleetwood Mac have also been patient to make a live return — their most recent gig happened in late 2019, and they haven't announced any dates for 2022.
The band last played Nov. 20, 2019, at Dreamfest in San Francisco, closing with "Don't Stop." (While footage of that performance is not available online, below you'll find a version of "Go Your Own Way," which closed out the main set.)
The past few years have been a tough time for Ozzy Osbourne touring, even without a pandemic. He first launched No More Tours 2, described as his last world trek, in April 2018. But it was postponed several times due to various health issues. In January 2020, Osbourne revealed that he's been battling Parkinson's disease since 2003, and he canceled all 2020 shows the following February. In September 2021, Osbourne's wife, Sharon, noted that the singer was scheduled for neck and spine surgery ahead of the tour's relaunch, originally planned for January.
Then there was the pandemic: In late November, Osbourne delayed his U.K. and European tour with Judas Priest for a second time. "Due to the ongoing uncertainty with full capacity events and travel logistics in much of Europe, we have come to the difficult decision to postpone my 2022 tour to 2023," he wrote in a statement.
The metal giant last performed Dec. 31, 2018, at Ozzfest in Inglewood, Calif., ending with a version of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid."
U2 concluded their second Joshua Tree anniversary tour in 2019, a few months before the pandemic hit. And they haven't announced any new dates since, though guitarist the Edge told Rolling Stone they wouldn't rule out reviving their multimedia-rich Zoo TV Tour, which promoted their Achtung Baby album. (The band recently celebrated that LP with a 30th-anniversary reissue.)
The Edge also noted that U2 are currently focused on recording new music. “As much as momentum is your friend, there’s a moment where you stop getting fed by momentum and it starts to drain you,” he said. “That’s because you need those moments of inactivity just to listen to music. We’re all enjoying that right now.”
U2 last performed Dec. 15, 2019, in Mumbai, India, closing their encore with a version of "One" featuring Noel Gallagher and A. R. Rahman.
The touring industry in 2021 reached some kind of new normal, but anyone who attended a show knew things were different. In April, Heart singer Ann Wilson reflected on that drastically altered landscape.
"I don't think that getting back on the road means it's going to return to the way it was a year and a half ago," she told Kyle Meredith With ... "We're starting fresh; we're starting from scratch. And whatever shows we do are going to be drastically different."
She added that having time off had been a "blessing in disguise" for the group, giving it a break from the "roller coaster." She added, "When we do go back on tour, it's going to be fresh and energized and a lot more edgy." (She put that theory to the test in July, launching a solo tour and 9/11 benefit show.)
Heart's most recent show took place Oct. 13, 2019, in St. Paul, Minn., ending with "Barracuda."
Queen + Adam Lambert
Queen + Adam Lambert built on the major success of the band biopic Bohemian Rhapsody with the Rhapsody Tour in 2019 and early 2020. The run was supposed to continue through the year and into 2021, but it was ultimately moved to 2022 due to the pandemic.
"Under continuing Europe-wide COVID restrictions, there’s no possible way the tour can go ahead as planned for this year," they wrote in a statement. "The prospect of again not being able to look forward to performing and getting to experience those wonderful audiences is just heartbreaking."
The European trek now starts in May 2022, and drummer Roger Taylor recently enthused about the idea to UCR, saying he "can't wait." "We’d love to come back to the States, because it’s so great. It works so well there, and everything is easier to organize," he said. "We’re out in May, June and July all over Europe. We’re going to do 10 big nights in London. Maybe 11. We’re looking forward to it."
The band's most recent concert happened Feb. 29, 2020, in Gold Coast, Australia, closing with "We Are the Champions."
Aerosmith once planned a 2020 European tour that was pushed back first to 2021, then to 2022. "The European tour, they tried to plan one last year, and they're talking about next year," guitarist Brad Whitford admitted during Joe Bonamassa's Live From Nerdville podcast. "It's a pipe dream right now. Nothing's gonna happen for a long time. Sometimes I'm not sure what my partners are thinking when they think that's gonna happen."
He also noted another inevitable concern: getting older. "I mean, I have my doubts about Aerosmith ever really performing again at this stage," he said, "because age is becoming a real factor. And it is what it is."
Aerosmith were booked to perform a 50th-anniversary concert at Boston's Fenway Park, but it was postponed twice due to COVID-19 and is now scheduled for September 2022. They last played Feb. 15, 2020, in Las Vegas, ending their encore with "Walk This Way."
Red Hot Chili Peppers
It's hard to say if any tour drew more headlines this year than Red Hot Chili Peppers' recently announced 2022 world trek, part of a reunion with guitarist John Frusciante. (As of October 2021, they were "nearly done" with a new album.)
When the North American leg kicks off July 23 in Denver, it will mark the end of a long waiting period. The band had a memorable semi-reunion in February 2020, when Frusciante joined singer Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea for a three-song set at a Beverly Hills memorial concert.
The Chili Peppers' final show with guitarist Josh Klinghoffer took place Nov. 2, 2019, at the Silverlake Conservatory of Music's annual benefit. Their final song was a cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" featuring Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder.
Yes postponed a flurry of 2020 dates due to the pandemic, including a European/U.K. Album Series Tour that promised a full performance of their 1974 LP, Relayer. In March, they wound up moving the jaunt to 2022 "due to COVID restrictions across Europe and for everyone’s safety."
“We’re really looking forward to getting back onstage and performing for our fans," keyboardist Geoff Downes said in a statement. "Relayer will be special.”
Yes capped off their Royal Affair Tour on July 28, 2019, in Saratoga, Calif., ending with "Starship Trooper." (No video footage from that show is floating around online. Below you'll find a performance of "The Gates of Delirium" from June 12, 2019, in Bethlehem, Penn.)
Scorpions were forced to postpone a 2020 Las Vegas residency with Queensryche due to the pandemic — first to 2021, then to 2022. The nine-show run now begins March 26 at the city's Zapps Theater, followed by a run in Europe, with Mammoth WVH joining on select dates. The timing at least makes sense: The band's 19th album, Rock Believer, is out Feb. 25.
The German hard-rock band wrapped its Crazy World Tour on March 5, 2020, in Kallang, Singapore, closing with "Rock You Like a Hurricane."
Peter Gabriel last played a traditional solo concert in 2014, and his now-decades-in-the-works follow-up to 2002's Up still hasn't materialized. With that in mind, no one was banking on a Gabriel tour in 2021, pandemic or no.
It's unclear when the art-rock legend might play next — but recent quotes and in-studio photos indicate that a new album just might emerge in 2022. (A smart bet is not to bet on it.) Will he hit the stage at some point? We'll wait and see. But whenever it happens, it will be big news: His last performance took place July 24, 2016, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada — part of an unconventional trek with Sting titled Rock Paper Scissors, where the duo volleyed songs and mini-sets back and forth between their two bands.