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In recent years I've seen a lot of "band xxx perform album yyy in its entirety" type of events, including "Lou Reed performs Berlin", "Pearl Jam perform Ten" and lots more.

But what was the first event of that type ever? Who started this trend and why?

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    I'd be very surprised if you can pinpoint this, although it's certainly a "Retro" thing and was most likely a recent trend. Bands like Pink Floyd and The Who used to perform their entire new releases back in the day, but never with such billing. – Johnny Bones Jan 6 '17 at 18:24
  • I can't find anything online to corroborate this, but Rush's Test For Echo tour in 1996/97 was billed as "An Evening With Rush", and they made it widely known that it would be the first time the song 2112 would be played in its entirety (prior to this tour, they had never played Oracle: The Dream live). This was most likely either the genesis of the idea for other bands, or at least very early on in the process where bands generated ticket interest by indicating an earlier release would be performed in its entirety. – Johnny Bones Jan 6 '17 at 22:13
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From my preliminary research, which includes a Quora question, a RateYourMusic list, and a couple of other references, it seems like it may have been The Who, who played their classic double album Tommy live starting in April of 1969. Now, there is a caveat here. They technically switched the song order and didn't play four tracks from the album: "Cousin Kevin", "Underture", "Sensation", and "Welcome". So while they weren't technically performing the album in its entirety, it's hard to argue that they weren't performing Tommy.

There's also the question of an event or tour being billed as playing an album in its entirety. While I'm unaware of any advertising or press releases in 1969/1970 actually saying that The Who was performing Tommy, the last time they performed the album, on December 20, 1970, where guitarist Pete Townsend announced, "This is the very last time we'll play Tommy on stage." So clearly it was known that as a part of this tour, The Who were performing Tommy.

Now, if the fact that The Who didn't perform Tommy in its entirety means that Tommy is not the correct answer to this question, there are a few potential runner ups.

As for "why was this trend started," check out Tetsujin's answer. I think it accurately answers why a lot of bands are trending towards it nowadays, re-playing an entire album that came out 25 years or however long ago to drum up some nostalgia. But I'd say that in the beginning, when The Who, Pink Floyd, and other artists started coming out with concept albums, they viewed the album itself as a piece of music, rather than a collection of songs. So like a classical orchestra performing an entire concerto, they performed an album in its entirety because it was intended to be a single piece of music.

  • I'm entirely with you on concept, but I think this new 'entire album' thing is a new world, separated from the old Who/Floyd artistic integrity by a thousand years & a sharp accountant. A serious +1 for your research & background, but I think the world is a lot more cynical now, unfortunately. – Tetsujin Jan 6 '17 at 20:22
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    @Tetsujin "a sharp accountant" is hilarious, and true. I think you're right that they're two separate things, but I wanted to point out that the trend of playing a whole album live started out innocently. A band put out an album, liked the whole album, so they played the whole album. But as you said, when the album's been out for awhile, it's no longer really an artistic thing, it's (in most cases) an added reason to justify a higher ticket price. And you can say the same thing for "reunion" tours as well. – Joe Kennedy Jan 6 '17 at 21:20
  • I've discovered, since this QA, that U2 are latest to jump on the bandwagon, with a Joshua Tree @30 years tour... which makes me feel very old - I worked briefly on the first Joshua Tree tour in 1987 :/ – Tetsujin Jan 17 '17 at 10:57
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Reasoning: It's a great way of re-selling an old artist 'back from the wilderness' but with nothing new on offer.

Who first: I bet that's going to be harder to nail down - there's been a huge resurgence in old acts coming back to do their old stuff, probably driven by the success of a million tribute bands around the world.

For the past 15 years or more, it's been possible to see [not]ABBA Live or [not] the Beatles, [not] Freddie Mercury, etc etc on stage in a thousand clubs round the world, day in, day out.
Some of them even come with [vaguely] amusing names, Blowasis, Bjørn Again, The Bootleg Beatles, etc

My guess is some of the original acts thought they could cash in on that resurgence. Why pay to see Loo Read when you can go see Lou Reed... why see Bjørn Again, if Abba were actually on tour, Pearls Jammin' if there's Pearl Jam. [Freddie gets a bye on this round, not being with us any more, but even Queen + Guest Vocalist have been doing the same thing.] Pink Floyd actually made up with Roger Waters to play at Live8.

Touring used to be just a way of advertising the latest album; no-one ever made money on a tour, it was a business expense.
Since the Stones first did it in the 90's & made a killing, it's now a way of making money. No more the 'tenner a ticket' in hopes of selling a few more copies of the new album, now you can be paying 100 - 150 for the privilege of taking your binoculars to try see who's way out there on the stage in the distance.

Big gigs are big money these days.

  • Addressing the last 2 paragraphs; beginning with The Eagles' "Hell Freezes Over" tour and the Clapton tour that followed, bands began to charge outrageous prices and the market showed that the public would pay it. This represented a doubling (and tripling, in some cases) of average ticket prices. Which was, believe it or not, a consequence of Napster and the public's belief they had a right to free music. Well, bands had to make money somehow, and they now make a lot of money through ticket sales. I still have stubs where bands charged $8/seat for a show at Madison Square Garden. – Johnny Bones Jan 6 '17 at 21:36
  • For sure. Bowie, Clash, Queen... a fiver. Then in the 80s & 90s I was in a position I never had to pay to go to gigs... These days I can't be bothered, too old (& very probably too cynical ;) – Tetsujin Jan 7 '17 at 5:54

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