In the past couple of weeks alone, Rage Against the Machine, the Black Crowes, Mötley Crüe, and My Chemical Romance have announced reunion tours for 2020. These bands all splintered into various solo projects once they broke up, but the lure of a big-money reunion is hard for nearly any group to resist. This is especially true at a time when the culture is producing very few popular new rock bands, but festivals all over the globe are still desperate for fresh headliners. That said, there are still many dormant bands out there turning down enormous paydays. Here’s a look at 14 of them and our completely non-scientific assessment of the odds that they’ll fold at some point and hit the road again.
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Why They Split: Band relations hit a real low on the band’s 1980–81 Wall tour, but after Roger Waters left in the early 1980s, the remaining trio of David Gilmour, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason got along quite well and turned into a functioning unit. They also played many enormous stadium gigs, but by the end of 1994’s massive Division Bell tour David Gilmour had had enough. They quietly went on an indefinite hiatus when the tour wrapped after a long run of shows at London’s Earls Court in October 1994.
Last Performance: The classic line-up of Gilmour, Wright, Mason, and Waters did a four-song set at Live 8 in the summer of 2005. Three years later Richard Wright died of cancer — forever ruling out a complete reunion. In May 2011, David Gilmour performed “Comfortably Numb” with Roger Waters at London’s 02 Arena, and Mason (playing tambourine) came out with Gilmour for “Outside the Wall.” David Gilmour and Nick Mason came together in the studio in 2014 to complete some unfinished Richard Wrights tracks on the largely instrumental album The Endless River, but they didn’t support it with any live work
Odds of a Reunion: The details are still vague, but earlier this year Waters told Rolling Stone that he went to Gilmour with a “big peace plan that has come to nothing, sadly.” Waters then made plans for his own arena tour in 2020. It seems likely that he was floating a reunion tour of some sort, but Gilmour has been steadfast in his refusal to do anything like that. He even sold all of his guitars at a recent charity auction. Another Gilmour solo tour remains possible, but none of them truly need the money a reunion tour would generate. We put the odds of it ever happening at 15%.
Why They Split: The band survived the departure of Peter Gabriel in 1975, and against all odds became a much bigger band. That luck didn’t hold when Phil Collins walked after the hugely successful We Can’t Dance album and tour in 1992. They brought in new singer Ray Wilson, but their 1997 LP Calling All Stations tanked hard and they split after a brief European tour.
Last Performance: Peter Gabriel called a band meeting to discuss a reunion tour in the 2004, but he quickly changed his mind when he realized how much time it would entail. With him out of the picture, the three man lineup of Phil Collins, Tony Banks, and Michael Rutherford decided to go on a reunion tour in 2007. It was a huge success, but Phil Collins had no interest in carrying on any further when it wrapped up after a Hollywood Bowl show on October 13th, 2007.
Odds of a Reunion: It was looking pretty bleak for quite a while, especially after Phil Collins suffered such severe nerve damage that he lost the ability to drum and announced his retirement. But he returned to the road for a triumphant solo tour in 2017 with his teenage son Nic handling the drums. They did a handful of Genesis songs every night and were even joined by guitarist Mike Rutherford at a couple of European shows. “We’re all still great friends,” Collins told the crowd most nights of the tour. “So you never know.” Fans hoping to see Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett back in the band will probably be disappointed, but a Genesis tour with Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Daryl Stuermer, and Nic Collins is easy to imagine in the next couple of years. Let’s put the odds at 40%.
Why They Split: To simplify a rather complex story, the other members of the band got sick of the public seeing them as David Byrne’s backing band. At the same time, Byrne grew increasingly uneasy about having to share creative responsibilities. The result was a very dysfunctional band. They didn’t officially split until 1991, but their last tour was the legendary Speaking in Tongues tour of 1983–84.
Last Performance: The group shocked many when they agreed to perform at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. “It had been a long time since we’d had much of a conversation,” Chris Frantz said in 2009. “We’d bump into David at Lou Reed’s house or something like that. But that was the first time we’d sat down and talked.” Unlike many sloppy Rock Hall reunions, the four of them put aside their differences and carefully rehearsed a killer three-song set of “Psycho Killer,” “Life During Wartime,” and “Burning Down the House.”
Odds of a Reunion: David Byrne is pretty stubborn fellow and he’s made it absolutely clear he has no interest in ever doing this even though he just finished a long tour packed with Talking Heads classics and now he’s doing a version of it on Broadway. Basically, he’s willing to do Talking Heads songs in any capacity as long as it doesn’t mean playing them with any members of the actual band. “I’m trying to think of any reunions I might have seen where I felt, ‘This needed to happen,’ where it allows a band to move on to the next step,” he told Rolling Stone a few weeks back. “With the Pixies, I thought it was terribly justified because the public caught up with what they were doing. So they finally got the audience that they deserved early on, whereas we did OK.” Sadly, this is probably about 10%.
Why They Split: If the Everly Brothers invented sibling rivalry in rock & roll, the Kinks perfected it. Ray and Dave Davies were at each other’s throats from nearly the moment the band burst onto the rock scene with “You Really Got Me” in 1964. Somehow or another, they stuck together until 1996 when they split in the face of lagging record sales and declining attendance at their concerts. Much like the Ramones at the exact same time, they had been around so long that people began to take them for granted.
Last Performance: Ray and Dave Davies (along with various former Kinks) have appeared in public at numerous award shows and functions over the past two decades, but the group hasn’t done a concert since 1996. Ray and Dave Davies did perform “You Really Got Me” at a Dave solo concert in 2015.
Odds of a Reunion: The brothers have already reunited in the studio during the past couple of years. Nobody has heard what they’ve done, but Ray and Dave say they hope to get some sort of Kinks release out in the near future. (We’ll believe it when we hear it, though.) A tour is another question. Ray hasn’t even gone on a solo tour in five years. It’s possible they’ve just waited too long and gotten too old, but a single concert or a limited run in the next couple of years feels very possible. We’re putting it at 70%.
Why They Split: Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died in 1980, causing the band to split. The remaining trio re-formed at Live Aid in 1985, an Atlantic Records anniversary concert in 1988, and their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Despite pleas from his bandmates and fans, Robert Plant has refused all offers of a reunion tour.
Last Performance: In December of 2007 Led Zeppelin performed their first full concert since Bonham died in 1980 at London’s 02 Arena in honor of the late Ahmet Ertegun. They spent months rehearsing a stellar two-hour show, but nothing more came of it. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were so frustrated with the situation that they auditioned a bunch of singers in 2008 and even looked seriously into a tour without Plant, but wisely canceled the whole thing before it got off the ground.
Odds of a Reunion: Robert Plant has been extremely clear that he has absolutely no interest in ever fronting Led Zeppelin again, and that he viewed the 02 Arena show as a perfect way to end the band. They could play every stadium in the world and make a billion dollars, but Robert Plant is rich enough and this is almost certainly never going to happen. 10%.
Why They Split: Sometimes a band just runs its course. R.E.M. had an incredible 30-year run, but in 2011 they mutually decided it was time to move on. “There is sadness because I will never play on the same stage as Peter and Michael again,” Mike Mills told Rolling Stone that year. “We’re doing this for good reasons, and we end up looking back at all the fun, the joy and the incredible opportunities we had. … We needed to prove, not only to our fans and critics but to ourselves, that we could still make great records. And we made two. We thought, ‘We’ve done it. Now let’s do something no other band has done: Shake hands and walk away as friends.'”
Last Performance: The band wrapped up their 2008 world tour in Mexico City on November 18th, 2008. The following March they played “E-Bow the Letter” with Patti Smith at their own tribute concert at Carnegie Hall. The only reunion since then took place on July 13th, 2016 when Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, and Mike Mills played “Losing My Religion” at a private birthday party for their manager Bertis Downs in France.
Odds of a Reunion: The band says it’s never going to happen, but they all say that at first. Let’s see how they all feel in 10 years. Of course, they’ll be pushing 70 by then. We’re going to say 30%.
The White Stripes
Why They Split: The White Stripes toured in 2007 behind their new album Icky Thump, but the final dates were called off due to drummer Meg White’s “acute anxiety problem.” They announced their split in February of 2011. “The reason is not due to artistic differences or lack of wanting to continue,” they said. “Nor any health issues as both Meg and Jack are feeling fine and in good health. It is for a myriad of reasons, but mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way. Both Meg and Jack hope this decision isn’t met with sorrow by their fans but that it is seen as a positive move done out of respect for the music that the band has created. It is also done with the utmost respect to those fans who’ve shared in those creations, with their feelings considered greatly.”
Last Performance: On February 20th, 2009, the White Stripes performed their 2002 song “We’re Going to Be Friends” on Conan O’Brien’s final 12:30 NBC show.
Odds of a Reunion: They’re young enough that it seems likely their paths will cross again at some point down the road. Maybe they’ll headline Coachella in 2030. We’re going to put the odds of an eventual reunion at 60%.
Why They Split: It’s often easier for bands to deal with failure than success. The Fugees were a functional three-piece group from their formation in 1992 until the huge success of The Score in 1996. Then everything just fell apart. Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill broke up as a couple, bringing all sorts of complications into the group. Lauryn then turned her attention to her solo career, which blew up in 1998 with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It turned her into a solo star without much use for the Fugees and all the baggage that came with them. They called it quits in 1998.
Last Performance: In 2005 they reformed for the critically reviled new single “Take It Easy,” and they performed at Dave Chappelle’s Block Party and the BET Awards before launching a European tour. Lauryn was often late to the shows, causing all sorts of backstage tension. The whole thing quietly ended in early 2006. Things reached a new low the next year when Wyclef told the press that Lauryn was in need of therapy, and Pras said there was a better chance of “seeing Osama Bin Laden and [George W.] Bush in Starbucks having a latte” than a Fugees reunion.
Odds of a Reunion: There’s no love lost between the various factions in the Fugees. Pras even came out against Wyclef’s run for the presidency of Haiti in 2010. That said, they would make a lot of money at some point in the future by putting aside their differences. Lauryn can’t keep putting on this same solo show forever, and it seems like her new album is never actually going to happen. It might take another decade or two, but we figure that that the Fugees will probably share a stage again some day. We’ll put the odds at 80%.
Why They Split: In 2002, Justin Timberlake realized that the boy-band craze was quickly coming to an end. He called for a group hiatus and began to focus on his solo career. The others thought about carrying on as a four-piece, but wisely decided against it. Meanwhile, Justin went on to a huge solo career and never looked back.
Last Performance: The full five-piece hasn’t performed since a brief reunion with Timberlake in 2013 when MTV gave him the Video Vanguard award. The non-Justin members, however, played “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” with Ariana Grande at Coachella earlier this year.
Odds of a Reunion: It seems like everyone in ‘NSync not named Justin Timberlake is thinking quite hard about a reunion tour these days. Even without their leader, the group could probably play very large venues and make quite a bit of money. So, the odds of a four-man reunion are probably somewhere around 80% and the odds a full reunion down at 40%.
Why They Split: The Smiths accomplished a lot during their five-year run, but when guitarist Johnny Marr quit the band in the summer of 1987 they simply couldn’t continue — despite a very brief attempt to soldier on with guitarist Ivor Perry.
Last Performance: The Smiths’ final show to date was at London’s Brixton Academy on December 12th, 1986. They finished the set with “Hand in Glove,” which was their first single just four years earlier.
Odds of a Reunion: Relations within the Smiths have been extremely poor for quite some time, especially after drummer Mike Joyce sued Morrissey for royalties. Morrissey hates even being asked about the possibility of a reunion, famously saying that he’d rather “eat his own testicles” than perform with the band. Amazingly, Johnny Marr revealed in his 2016 memoir that he met with Morrissey in 2008 and talked about re-forming the band minus Joyce. It never went anywhere, but the mere fact that Morrissey was willing to think about makes us put this at 10%.
Why They Split: Years of tension within Oasis finally reached a boiling point backstage at a Paris festival in August of 2009. Reports vary wildly about what happened, but the Gallagher brothers got into some sort of physical altercation and then refused to take the stage. The rest of the tour was canceled. “With some sadness and great relief I quit Oasis tonight,” Noel Gallagher said in a statement. “People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.”
Last Performance: The final gig took place August 22nd, 2009, at the V Festival in Weston England. The Paris fight was six days later.
Odds of a Reunion: Unsurprisingly, the Gallagher brothers have varying takes on the prospect of coming back together. Liam would happily do it tomorrow, but Noel says he has little interest in ever seeing it happen. They’re both doing quite well touring on their own, but a reunion would pack stadiums around the world and net them a small fortune. It may take another decade or so, but odds of them doing it at some point down the line feel pretty likely. 80%.
Why They Split: This one is simple: Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon ended their marriage in 2011 and that was it for the band.
Last performance: Sonic Youth last played live on November 12th, 2011, at the Parque Brasil 500, Paulínia, Brazil. The final song they did was their 1988 classic “Teen Age Riot.”
Odds of a Reunion: Sonny and Cher still managed to do their variety shows years after they legally divorced. They probably didn’t love the idea, but money makes people do strange things. Moore and Gordon stand to make a ton should they ever decide to make the band happen again. We’ll say 25%.
Why They Split: The band re-formed with Ozzy Osbourne in 2012 for a reunion tour minus drummer Bill Ward. That led to the new LP 13 in 2013 and another tour. The only other move in the veteran-band playbook after that was a farewell tour.
Last Performance: They called it quits after a hometown show in Birmingham, England, on February 4th, 2017.
Odds of a Reunion: Ozzy Osbourne has gone through a series of horrific health issues in recent years that have derailed his solo farewell tour again and again, but he plans on returning to the road next year. More Sabbath gigs felt pretty iffy for a long time, but Ozzy has said he’s open to it if Bill Ward can find his way back into the fold. “Those final gigs in Birmingham were bittersweet because you think of how far we came, and how much we did, and it would have been good to have shared that together,” Osbourne said in May. “Maybe one day there’ll be one last gig, I don’t know.” He seems to be setting the stage for one final Sabbath blowout presuming everyone stays healthy. We’d say odds are 25% it’ll happen.
Simon and Garfunkel
Why They Split: Simon and Garfunkel somehow managed to get over their hatred of each other from 2003 to 2010, touring all over the world in that time and pulling in millions. But when Garfunkel’s vocal issues caused them to cancel a series of dates in 2010, old tensions flared up and they again went their separate ways.
Last Performance: They played “Mrs. Robinson” at the AFI Tribute to Mike Nichols on June 10th, 2010. It was the song that made them true pop superstars and Nichols made that happen, so it’s somewhat appropriate if that is indeed the last time they perform.
Odds of a Reunion: Paul Simon wrapped up his Homeward Bound farewell tour last year with a hometown show in Queens. He grew up with his buddy Artie not far from the concert grounds, but Garfunkel wasn’t onstage that night. We asked Simon about a possible reunion in 2016 and he gave a very blunt answer. “No, out of the question,” he said. “We don’t even talk.” As long as they are both alive, it is possible they’ll be a “How Terribly Strange to Be 80” tour at some point, but we’re putting the odds at 20%.
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