Why fans want to hear the hits not ‘one from the new album’

From Liam Payne to Gwen Stefani and (almost) Nadine Coyle, pop stars are increasingly relying on their old bandmates to shift tickets

Liam Payne recently said that One Direction might reunite for a tour – just two years after they broke up. Talking like a recently solo pop star with a clearly thought-through back-up plan, he suggested that 1D could get back together to perform their solo stuff and the boyband’s hits like “five concerts in one” before being forced to admit that he’d only actually spoken to Louis Tomlinson about the idea. But – aside from the fact that it will probably be a long time before we see Harry Styles and Zayn back in the band – Liam doesn’t actually need to restart that dormant “1D ladzzz banter” WhatsApp group just yet; you can trade on your old band’s reputation without going the full reunion.

Take Gwen Stefani, for instance. She has recently signed up to a Las Vegas residency, and it’s fair to say the imagery is very No Doubt era, right down to the oranges from the Don’t Speak video. The show’s even called Just a Girl. But now that Gwen’s former bandmates have formed a new group without her – Dreamcar, with AFI frontman Davey Havok – they’re not available. No matter: Gwen can perform the band’s hits without them, maybe even subbing in her country star boyfriend Blake Shelton for a duet on Hella Good, as she did at a recent awards show.

Then there’s Nadine Coyle, who earlier this year announced her Girls Aloud tour … without the rest of Girls Aloud. The fallout between them has been well documented but Nadine didn’t let that stop her, announcing plans to perform classics such as The Promise, Love Machine and Biology alongside her own slightly less successful solo output (the No 26-charting Insatiable anyone?). Sounds incredible: only a cynic would suggest that the tour’s last-minute cancellation was in any way connected to the fact that tickets weren’t selling as fast as they would for, I don’t know, an actual Girls Aloud reunion.

Pop stars using their back catalogue to try to pad out a thin solo career is not a new tactic: early in his solo live shows, Ne-Yo would sing all the songs he actually wrote for other artists as some kind of weird flex. Famously, Mike Love still tours as the Beach Boys, despite fans holding the band’s Wilson brothers much closer to their hearts; even Bluetones frontman Mark Morriss has toured Bluetones songs without the Bluetones.

So it’s settled, then: Liam Payne’s proposed solo One Direction tour will include him breathlessly trying to sing all five parts of What Makes You Beautiful, and him having an emergency lie-down backstage after attempting to dance and hit Zayn’s high notes at the same time. All that, plus awkward stage banter with just himself. Liam: sign us up.


Issy Sampson

The GuardianTramp

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