Opener vs. Headliner

The Summer concert season is starting soon and there are many Rock’n Roll pairings coming to a town near you: Poison/Cinderella, Def Leppard/Journey, Bon Jovi/Nickelback, Tom Petty/Pearl Jam or Tom Petty/Allman Brothers. In the case of Poison/Cinderella and Def Lep/Journey, these are co-headline tours but, technically, one band is the opening act.

The question today is:

Have you ever been to a concert where the opening band blew away the headliner?

I’ve seen this happen more than a few times:

1. Sammy Hagar vs. David Lee Roth (Sam & Dave Tour 2002, Mansfield MA) – Each band played 100 mins, each band took turns headlining. Sammy played a Van Halen heavy set, bringing out Michael Anthony for half the show AND Gary Cherone dueted on When It’s Love (background vocals provided by local favorite, Boston!). Diamond Dave had no shot after Sammy blew his wad. Dave played all Van Halen songs but his voice was giving him a hard time. I was 3rd row, stage right. Just after his second song, Dave runs to the side of the stage, takes a shot and a puff of something “herbal”. He comes back on stage and his voice is now perfect!

2. UFO vs. Blue Oyster Cult (2004, Hampton Beach Casino, NH) – UFO’s glorius return to New England and they blow B.O.C. away. After 90 mins of UFO, most of they crowd walked out leavung B.O.C. to play a half empty ballroom!

3. Cinderella vs. Bon Jovi (Slippery When Wet Tour 1986, Providence Civic Center) – Cinderella was on their first tour and were hungrier, they went over HUGE in Providence. When the house lights went up after Cinderella, the hall erupted in boos. This I’ll never forget, after 30 mins, the house lights go up and everyone boos! Bon Jovi opens with In And Out Of Love and the boos cascade down. Priceless!

4. Guns’n Roses vs. Aerosmith (Appetite Tour/Permanent Vacation Tour 1988, Mansfield, MA) – Who could compete with a surging Guns’n Roses in 1988? Even the mighty Aerosmith couldn’t keep up and they were excellent that night.

5. Silvertide vs. Fuel (2004, Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, Providence, RI) – I took my wife to see Fuel at this old theater, I can’t stand them. So we head to the bar and these teenagers take the stage (they are actually all between 18 – 21). Unimpressed, I go back to my drink. I then hear the most amazing Michael Schenker-ish guitar solo, there’s this young kid with a white Flying V just wailing. 30 mins later, I’m blown away and buying their 2 samplers at the merch booth. Fuel came on stage and the crowd cheered but the energy had been sucked dry after witnessing the Silvertide upstarts playing solos on bar tops, and stomping their way through the crowd. So much energy, with surprising talent for a young band, everyone leaving was talking about Silvertide and not Fuel.

5 comments on “Opener vs. Headliner

  1. In 1988 I went to Van Halen’s Monsters of rock. I mainly went to see Metallica and they were good, but the Scorpions (playing fourth of five bands) stole the show. They stormed the stage opening with Blackout and played like they were on fire for 90 minutes. Van Halen were good, but the Scorpions blew them and everyone else away that day.

    I saw a band called T-ride open for Tora Tora and they were far better than on their album. They didn’t blow away Tora Tora who were great too, but they equaled them.

  2. I’ve seen the Scorpions live 5 times since 1990. Each time, they’ve played a varied setlist (all eras) and played extremely well. Talk about a band that gets overlooked sometimes!

    I’ve seen a lot of tours where the bands were equal. These few up above just stood out to me. Whether it was boos or people walking out, it was something to experience.

  3. @Mark … Tora Tora?

    Hooray. You’re the first person I see online who actually mentioned them. Everyone laughed me out of the room when I said that “Amnesia” was one of my fave songs, but it has remained one of my fave songs since, what, 1992?

    Re the main question:

    This is embarrassing because it’s the only concert I can remember off the bat at which the opener smoked the main act and stomped them into the ground: Saga vs. Styx. Some American friends bribed me into seeing Styx and the only thing I liked (besides Renegade and the songs of that album [Queen of Spades? or some such] was Saga. They actually had to play two encores (and Styx let them … Respect!).

    I can’t remember who I saw Girlschool with, but they were better than the main act until the guitarist got electrocuted (mildly, after she had touched the mike stand)half way through the opening set and then the main act came on and I left.

    I can’t for the life of me remember other concerts right now at which the opening act was markedly better, but there must have been, many.

    And, finally, let me go on record here that I’m a Diamond Dave fan, supporter and member of the Roth Army (in spirit). Sammy Hagar? Pleeeeeaaase. I mean, Nirvana killed rock music and Hagar buried everything else that was left. Even if he was better that night, he couldn’t have been. ;)

    And that Anthony dude?
    Give ’em some tequila to shut them up.
    (Just don’t give any to Eddie). ;)

    It’s weekend and I’m allowed to say stuff like that.


  4. Volkher,

    I’m a Diamond Dave guy. I’ve seen Van Hagar & Van Cherone but I never had the pleasure of Van Halen w/Diamond Dave leading the charge. I have seen Dave solo a few times and each time was great. The problem with this show was that Hagar brought out Anthony, Cherone, Boston (all Massachusetts faves) and had a huge finale. DLR was really on after his herbal remedy and had an excellent set but he was killed by the party/half reunion from Hagar and the rest. Wasn’t because DLR had a bad performance.

    I think Saga is one of the most underrated bands out there and I never got into Tora Tora, although they were big here in Rhode Island.

  5. Good to know that you haven’t left the Diamaond Dave fold. :)

    Saga I used to like after I saw that concert. At the time it was fresh, excellently-played and just an instant crowd pleaser. I mean, nobody really knew who they were and literally within 60 seconds they had 6000 people on their side. A rare feat.

    I’m often a single-tune guy. I don’t know how many CDs I bought because of one tune I had heard somewhere. Very few of those CDs turned out to have been worth it. Same with Tora Tora. Too generic, but that “Amnesia” tune just had the kind of power, drive and ass-kicking riff I like. I think I actually wore out the bytes on that one.

    P.S.: LOL Your captcha thingie below is telling me to type in the German word for “swimming trunks”. Weird, for a site like this one. ;)

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