You know you've made it big when you can afford to plant a whopping great 51-metre tall steel 'claw' in the middle of stadiums around the world and then expect people to take it seriously. That's what U2 did for their 360° Tour from 2009-2011, but it's just a recent example of some pretty preposterously staged tours. Here are 19 more.
Muse have never done things by halves, of course. The Absolution tour in 2004 featured a stunning array of lighting effects and Matt Bellamy zipping about in a ringmaster's tailcoat, pulling guitar shapes out front then scaling a dais where he could hammer the keys like Rick Wakeman. The monolithic laser effects of HAARP took it all a stage further.
Lady Gaga's ArtRave: The Artpop Ball is wowing 'em right now across the world. It's a show delivered with customary understatement, featuring catwalks made of lucite (that's a translucent plastic) that the audience can walk under, huge great plastic domes to house the band and, naturally, inflatable trees. It's all a grand concept, don't you know.
The Flaming Lips found their zany metier in 2004 when Wayne Coyne surfed the crowds at Coachella in a giant hamster ball. He's kept that trick in his repertoire since. The other addition to the Lips' stagecraft was a coterie of hangers-on milling around the stage in animal costumes, bringing a cartoon quality to suit the day-glo psych.
Rihanna's 777 Tour was an ambitious plan to play seven cities in seven countries in seven days, travelling between them on a Boeing 777. Obviously. The project was mainly notable for the 150 lucky music journalists accompanying her on the plane turning feral, and Rihanna's no-show at any of the sky-high parties. Well, you can hardly blame her really.
Of all David Bowie's absurd schemes in the 1980s (forming Tin Machine, dancing in a onesie with Mick Jagger, that Labyrinth frightwig), 1987's Glass Spider Tour took the biscuit. Promoting flimsy album 'Never Let Me Down', it featured an enormous "glass" spider with vacuum tube legs that was regularly found to be too big to fit in venues.
Second only to U2's 360° Tour on the all-time money-grabbing scale, The Rolling Stones' A Bigger Bang Tour lasted from August 2005 to August 2007 and (unimaginable sums of cash aside) was notable mainly for the gargantuan set of Jagger lips dwarfing the stage and turning stomachs the world over. Flames and fireworks were thrown in too for added value.
A ropey album in 2008's 'Hard Candy' wasn't enough to put Madonna staging her usual mammoth stage spectacular. The Sticky And Sweet Tour remains one of the highest-grossing tours ever, a just response to its S&M and double dutch sections, educational video interludes and on-screen appearances from Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake.
Kings of bling Kanye West and Jay-Z weren't about to do a set of intimate acoustic gigs to promote Watch The Throne in 2011. No, they were about to spring forth on matching, rising and falling cube-shaped platforms, kicking out fireballs and dazzling video imagery before uniting on a T-shaped mega-stage. You had to be there.
This is no particular tour, because the earthly appearances of Parliament/Funkadelic's Mothership were sporadic and unpredictable from the 70s to the 90s, but when the funk managed to summon it (and venues could fit it in), it was an awesome spectacle. It's now made a final landing in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.
Oh look, it's U2 again, this time taking PopMart around the world in 1997/8. Promoting 'ironic' album 'Pop', it gave them a chance to exercise kitschy notions like building a vast golden fast-food arch and of course a big old lemon. The band would emerge from the lemon for the encore. Unless they got stuck. Oh, to have been in Oslo or Osaka.
One of the landmark mega-tours that would set the pace for decades to come, Michael Jackson's Bad was actually the first solo tour he undertook. An extravaganza that ran for 14 months across the world, it was sponsored by Pepsi and saw Jacko's pet chimp Bubbles taking his own private jet.
Standard stuff for Kylie Minogue in 2011, who took Aphrodite: Les Folies on the road and indulged in around one costume change per song. The show was based loosely around the ancient world with an opening setpiece that saw Kylie rise from a huge conch shell, just like Venus (or Aphrodite, if we're getting Greek) in the Botticelli painting.
A second appearance for The Rolling Stones, this time for the Bridges To Babylon tour in the late 90s. A mediocre album in keeping with the Stones' post-70s efforts, it was brought to life by an obligatory 150-foot bridge and gigantic inflatable women. Who were Babylonian, if the devastating subtlety failed to translate.
With a big old thumb of the nose to erstwhile Pink Floyd colleagues, Roger Waters staged The Wall from 2010 to 2013, reeling out towering marionettes, fireworks, classic Gerald Scarfe animations and a wall constructed as the band played – all delivering the rock opera it was supposed to be.
A rather static tour, the Electric Light Orchestra's legendary Out Of The Blue performances were an eight-show run at Wembley Arena in June 1978. The centrepiece was the titanic Wurlitzer-like flying saucer from the cover of the album, with a hydraulic roof that would lift open to unveil the band beneath.
Right now, Justin Timberlake is gearing up for the next North American leg of The 20/20 Experience World Tour, a 30-song spectacular (and you know how long most of those songs are) that's been touring for a year already. It stars the great man himself, a tuxedo-clad dance troupe, and its own separate blues club for whatever reason.
Working with designers including Julien MacDonald, Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci and Roberto Cavalli, Beyoncé's Mrs Carter Show World Tour was a glittering spectacle of fancy threads that ran for just under a year and dazzled audiences with (deliberately) falling pyrotechnics, Cecil B. DeMille-style setpieces and, you know, some decent singing too.
The Circus Starring Britney Spears! If that wasn't enough to reel 'em in, then this 2009 gala spectacular also dished up Britters in a ringmaster's outfit, oodles of video footage, stilt-walkers and a seal balancing a ball on its nose. OK, maybe not the seal. Britney also took time out to bob about on the handle of a giant parasol and wield a colossal pink mallet.
Even without Roger Waters coming up with madcap plans, Pink Floyd were still capable of producing ludicrous shows by themselves. The Division Bell Tour of 1994 was enhanced by a couple of bespoke airships (what else?), an enormous round video screen and a complex canopied stage that took so long to set up it needed two copies that were sent ahead to later venues.