Photo: via Tumblr

Bands/Musicians The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever  

Adam Tyler
4.6k votes 702 voters 45.1k views

List Rules Openings bands that are completely different than headliners. Could be in different genres or opposite images.

Some of the strangest opening act bookings no doubt leave music fans scratching their collective heads. Most of the time, an opening act 'gels' well with the headliner. Rock bands, for instance, tend to open for other, more well-known rock bands. Occasionally, though, for some reason, very, very unlikely pairings happen. Who on Earth thought of having Jimi Hendrix open for The Monkees? What crazy, deranged concert promoter decided that having The Afghan Whigs open for Aerosmith was a super good idea? This list includes some of the most bizarre concert billings ever. Be sure to vote for those artists that you think are the most peculiar opening acts of all time, and, if you know of one not listed, by all means, add them! Everyone, it seems, has seen an oddly mismatched concert billing at one time or another.

It's hard to imagine who thought having the Beastie Boys open for Madonna on her 1985 Virgin Tour was an awesome idea. Audiences generally hated it, and critics did too. And while the Beasties went on to great fame and fortune, that tour is probably not one of the highlights of their career. Flash forward to 2012, now, and behold, one of the strangest, most unusual opening act bookings to date: Kool & the Gang will open shows for...Van Halen?! Yep. Apparently, this was David Lee Roth's bright idea. Celebrate good times, come on!

An opening act is supposed to be less popular than the headliner. That's just how it works, right? Wrong. Sometimes, the opening act winds up stealing the show. In 1983, Stevie Ray Vaughan opened for The Moody Blues. And he was, as always, amazing. Headliners want opening acts to warm up the crowd, but not take away from their big show.

The worst, oddest opening act billings resulted in disaster for some. Prince, of all people, was booed continually when he opened for The Rolling Stones in October of 1981. And Terence Trent D'Arby had the unfortunate status of opening act for Bruce Springsteen at New York's Madison Square Garden in June of 1993. Audiences did NOT like the choice: They booed throughout D'Arby's performance, and they also really pissed off The Boss - he cursed at them and then rushed through the show. And poor "Weird Al" Yankovic: He had the misfortune of opening for the new wave band Missing Persons in 1982. He's still somewhat traumatized by the experience, which he says included getting "pelted for 45 minutes" by "anything that wasn't nailed down."

Behold, the list of the most bizarre, strangest opening act bookings in music history. Don't boo, don't throw things -- just vote for your favorites!

Ranker may collect a commission from links on this page. Prices & inventory are accurate as of publish date.
list ordered by

1
154 60
The Who is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
Popular music, Pop music, Rock music
Opened for Herman's Hermits on July 14, 1967

2
173 74
Alice Cooper is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
Glam metal, Experimental rock, Shock rock
Opened for Chad & Jeremy in 1970

3
186 84
Ranker Video
Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock
Opened for The Monkees in 1967

4
144 87
The Doors is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk
Opened for Simon and Garfunkel in 1967 (Forest Hills, Queens)

5
124 100
Ranker Video
Hip hop music, Pop punk, Alternative hip hop
Opened for Madonna in 1985

6
97 81
Kool & the Gang is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
Disco, Dance-pop, Contemporary R&B
Opening for Van Halen in 2012

7
47 33
Ramones is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
malachi4.4ministries added Punk Rock
Opening act for Toto in Montreal, Canada once upon a time in the mid '70's.

8
96 82
Bruce Springsteen is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
Americana, Blues-rock, Heartland rock
Opened for Anne Murray on August 3, 1974 at New York's Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park

9
72 61
Ranker Video
Pop music, Rock music, Folk music
Opened for the Doors in the mid-1960s (Portland and Seattle)

10
109 100
Ranker Video
Hip hop music, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music
Opened for AC/DC and the Rolling Stones in 2003 (Toronto)

11
50 42
Rage Against the Machine is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
StarpunkRoQr added Crossover thrash, Nu metal, Political hip hop
opened up for U2 in 1997

12
23 14
Queen is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
PattiRuane added Pop music, Rock music, Heavy metal

13
43 36
Stevie Ray Vaughan is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
Blues-rock, Rock music, Instrumental rock
Opened for the Moody Blues in 1983

14
60 57
The B-52's is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
New Wave, Pop music, Rock music
Opened for The Who in 1982

15
50 47
Hip hop music, Pop music, Rock music
Opened for Missing Persons in 1982

16
28 23
Violent Femmes is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
StarpunkRoQr added Alternative rock, Punk rock, Folk punk
opened up for Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers. No, you're not hallucinating.

17
68 68
Rush is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
Progressive metal, Rock music, Heavy metal
Opened for Kiss in 1975

18
85 89
Prince is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave
Opened for The Rolling Stones on October 11, 1981

19
19 15
Grandmaster Flash and the Furi... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
Hip hop music, Old-school hip hop, Electro
Opened for The Clash in 1981

20
31 30
Porter Wagoner is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
Gospel music, Country
Opened for The White Stripes in 2007

21
17 14
Devo is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
Idiom added Synthpunk, New Wave, Synthpop
Opened for Sun Ra in 1975, opened for Arcade Fire in 2014

22
23 21
Bachman–Turner Overdrive is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
StarpunkRoQr added Boogie rock, Rock music, Hard rock
opened for Van Halen ( the 5150 tour, the first "Van Hagar" tour ) in 1986.

23
27 26
Radiohead is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
sangredeargento added Rock music, Electronic music, New Prog
opened for Alanis Morrrisette
 

24
34 35
Albert Brooks is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
alexgor23 added
Opened for Sly and the Family Stone in 1973 in Tacoma, Washington. He tells a great story about the experience...http://anecdotage.com/index.php?aid=4203

25
9 6
U2 Opened for the J. Geils Ban... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Strangest Opening Act Bookings Ever
MichelleCastro added U2 Opened for the J. Geils Band 1982