Boxoffice Insider: Spotlight On Historic Stadium Touring

Elton John and Billy Joel
Kevin Mazur / WireImage
– Elton John and Billy Joel’s
“Face To Face” tours are some of the major stadium runs of recent decades. Here, the two play Madison Square Garden in 2002.
Although many performers appear on a stadium stage at various times during their careers, the list of those who can book an entire tour exclusively in stadiums isn’t a long one. And a stadium tour featuring multiple headlining artists is even more rare. Yet, in our box office archives, there are historic stadium jaunts with more than one major draw that made a huge impact on the live entertainment landscapes of their eras.
This year’s “Hella Mega Tour” with Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer, highlighted in this issue’s cover story, is the latest multiple-act stadium tour to impact the concert industry. With ticket sales from the 20-show trek topping $67 million, it is set to fare well among 2021’s highest grossers in the year-end tour rankings.
Among the most prominent stadium tours in past years featuring more than one megastar, few were as monumental in their time as the “Face to Face” tours with Billy Joel and Elton John. In a period just over 15 years, they joined forces for seven co-headlining treks, the first three booked 
in stadiums. They played North American venues in 1994 and 1995, then stadiums in Oceania, Asia and Europe in 1998. The ’94 tour included 21 performances in 14 U.S. venues with sold tickets totaling 1,079,703 and a gross of $52.7 million. It ranked sixth worldwide among that year’s highest-grossing tours. Then the next year, they landed at No. 10 among the top 100 tours from only 12 stadium shows during a three-week run.
An earlier multiple-artist stadium tour that ranked second globally at the end of the year was the ”Monsters of Rock 1988” tour that racked up a $26.7 million gross from 26 performances at 23 venues. Van Halen topped the bill that summer with Scorpions, Dokken, Metallica and Kingdom Come rounding out the lineup. 
In 1992 Metallica paired up with Guns N’ Roses for a massive stadium trek in the U.S. and Canada. With attendance totaling 1,123,171 at 25 performances and a $31.2 million box-office take, the co-headliners ended the year at No. 3 in the worldwide tour rankings. U2 and Grateful Dead topped the chart that year with 73 and 55 shows, respectively, yet both of those bands played arenas and sheds along with their stadium dates, while the GNR/Metallica tour was solely a stadium run.
In 2010, “The Big 4” brought together heavy metal titans Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax for 14 dates in stadiums and festival sites that year and the next, beginning in Europe with a performance in Warsaw that was filmed and screened in movie theaters worldwide. Only two shows were played in North America, both in 2011. The first drew a crowd of 44,205 on April 23 at Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif., then in New York on Sept. 14, the four bands performed for a sellout crowd of 41,762 at Yankee Stadium.
During the past decade, some of the top stadium co-bills include 2012’s “Brothers of the Sun Tour” that paired country giants Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw for a 23-show jaunt through U.S. cities. With sold seats topping one million, they reached $96.5 million in sales.
The next year’s “Legends of the Summer Tour” saw Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z share the stage for 14 shows at 12 North American stadiums, taking in $69 million at the box office from 622,559 tickets. A two-show stand at Yankee Stadium, July 19-20, produced their top gross of $12 million.
Jay-Z played stadiums again in 2014, but with Beyoncé for their first “On the Run” stadium trek. The couple went out again four years later for “On the Run II” and surpassed $363 million in sales from both. Combined, they moved over 3.1 million tickets at 69 stadiums.
Eminem and Rihanna co-headlined in 2014, playing two sold-out shows at three U.S. stadiums on their brief ”Monster Tour” that raked in $36 million from 315,858 tickets.