There are a handful of popular artists who have sold out arenas and stadiums year after year. It’s a somewhat elite group. Even more elite are the ones who inspire fans to hit the road with them, and go to show after show. This phenomenon most likely started with the Grateful Dead in the ’70s, when fans would pack their bags and follow the group from concert to concert. The band would change their setlist night after night. This changed the definition of what a concert could be. Instead of playing the same songs in the same order, in city after city, they gave a different experience each night.

The benefits of changing the setlist

Of course, it’s much easier to rehearse a set and do it over and over. Many huge artists do that with each tour. AC/DC, for example, remains one of the most popular live acts in the world. But their setlist is generally locked in for an entire tour, and it barely changes from the beginning of the tour to the end. There are definitely benefits to that: fans know what they’re paying for.

On the other hand, artists who change their setlist every night may not get to all of the hits, and fans may not even know (or like) all of their songs. But it makes each concert a different experience, and there’s an excitement to that. The bands may also benefit from this: in the case of acts who sell live recordings of their shows (such as Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam, who we discuss below), this gives fans a reason to buy multiple recordings. It also helps them to stay in the news cycle. If a band plays a brand new song for the first time, or an old song that they haven’t played in years, it can draw attention that they wouldn’t otherwise receive by playing the same songs each night.

Other reasons to follow the artist on tour

A lot of these artists sell custom merch at every show. In other words, they might sell t-shirts and posters specific to the concert you’re attending alongside the more generic tour gear. You can only get that merch by attending the show… and by getting to the merch stand before the limited edition stuff sells out.  Other than that: it’s fun to see the country while seeing your favorite artist multiple times.

To look deeper into this subject, we’ve identified six artists with whom it is common practice for fans to attend multiple shows. It’s a passion for the artist that drives this behavior, but it’s also the desire to take in each unique experience.

Here, we’ve listed some of the artists that make it worth fans’ efforts to follow around on tour.

  • Bruce Springsteen

    Bruce Springsteen is even the boss of this category. With hundreds of songs in his catalog, Springsteen is also known to add in requests each night. These are spur of the moment additions based off signs fans bring. In this 2013 performance, he takes a request from the audience to cover Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell.” He teaches the band the song in less than three minutes — in front of a sold-out stadium crowd — and then launches into the song for the first time.

    Bruce Springsteen and Little Steven performing on stage.

    Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

  • Pearl Jam

    These Seattle legends have followed the new setlist every night model since 1991. In 32 years of touring, Pearl Jam has never played the same setlist twice in a row. With 11 studio records and a compilation of B-Sides, there’s so many possibilities for what they might play, and you might not always get all of the radio hits, but it will always be unique. They too, have traditionally partnered with an artist to design a silkscreen poster that is custom to each show.

    Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam on stage

    Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

  • Taylor Swift

    Currently on The Eras Tour, Taylor Swift plays mostly the same set each night. Until she gets to spots 37 and 38 in the setlist. That is reserved for “surprise songs.” You never know what you are going to get. It could be Swift solo on a piano playing a stripped-down version of fan-favorite, or it can be a live debut. What you do know, is that it will be something that has not been played on the tour yet. Swift’s 2023 tour plan was set to play in a particular city, Friday through Sunday night. This layout made travel plans attractive, if you could afford it. With the right money and either connections or luck with Ticketmaster, you could see three different shows over a weekend.

    Taylor Swift fans gather outside her stadium show at the merch booth.

    John Medina/Getty Images

  • Eric Church

    Eric Church has gone above and beyond to make sure he writes a different setlist each night. Church’s tours are always highly anticipated; this summer, not only is he changing the setlists, but he is spotlighting a collection of different peers as the opening act. In fact, 18 different names are slotted to support Church’s 2023 The Outsiders Revival Tour.

    Eric Church on stage with a mic and guitar

    Paras Griffin/Getty Images

  • Dave Matthews Band

    What Dave Matthews also mixes his songs up each night, the band is also known to break into epic jams. This can result in 10-minute extended versions of classic DMB songs. For over 25 years, Dave Matthews Band shows have paired perfectly with outdoor summer concerts. From tailgating to epic-length concerts, each night offers a guaranteed good time.

    Dave Matthews Band perform on stage

    Rich Polk/Getty Images

  • Phish

    The ultimate jam band audience, Phishheads are known to travel in packs. There are often pre-show meetups or camp outs built around Phish tours. Phish has always done a phenomenal job of designing their tours to hit areas that have a lot to offer. Phish also subscribes to the custom setlist each night model.

    Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Join the Family

Get Our Latest Articles in Your Inbox

By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.