Billy Corgan touring with Noel Gallagher: what could possibly go wrong?

The frontmen are on the road together, a co-headline tour following in the turbulent footsteps of Morrissey and Bowie

Noel Gallagher and Billy Corgan are heading out on tour together: what could go right? The never-touchy Smashing Pumpkins boss and the never-mouthy High Flying Birds leader have been shunted together into a co-headline package, due to perform 16 dates across North America in August. Make sure your hotel offers refunds.

This musical cut-and-shut of astral grunge and 6Music indie may seem an ungainly chimera, but it is part of a broader trend. Co-headlining has become an easy way to manage risk and – for bands approaching their nostalgia years – to jump a venue capacity bracket: good for the ego, good for the pocket, and good for cross-pollinating the fanbase. Last year, you could have seen Def Leppard with Journey. This year, why not fill your craving with co-headliners Bush and Live?

Unfortunately, two-for-one tours don’t come without their own risks; often there is too much ego ricocheting around too small a space. In 1992, as the cool funky upstarts paired with rock leviathans Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, Faith No More seemed to want to maintain their kudos by antagonising their tour-mates in the press. “There’s Dizzy and Iggy and Lizzy and Tizzy and Gilby and Giddy …” sniggered keyboard FM player Roddy Bottum. Optimising your cool while bathing in the exposure of a bigger band’s audience is a tough ask. Jimi Hendrix called the Monkees “dishwater” and worse, then found himself booked on a 28-city tour with them. He lasted seven shows.

The only thing worse than being badly matched is being well matched, leaving a band open to losing their audience to the opposition. Green Day drummer Tré Cool used the final date of his band’s co-headline tour with Blink-182 to give an interview suggesting his older outfit had shown the young pretenders up, night after night. “I don’t give a fuck if they read it or not,” he ranted to Kerrang!. “They can’t quit the tour now.”

Also: make sure you don’t head out on tour with Morrissey, a man whose tourbuses come with ejector seats. Even when the mononymous one was paired with his idol, David Bowie, on the Outside tour, Morrissey exited after only nine dates, claiming illness. Others pointed to a backstage tiff: either way, a full blunderbuss of character assassination followed. “He is no longer David Bowie at all,” Morrissey told GQ in 2004. “Now he gives people what he thinks will make them happy, and they’re yawning their heads off.”

Ultimately, when the pecking order of headliner-plus-supports fades away, the structure that many of these adult children need goes with it. Bands are second only to journalists in their instinctive cattiness towards rivals, and journalists don’t tend to go InterRailing with their professional rivals for months at a time.


Gavin Haynes

The GuardianTramp

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