10 Opening Acts That Became Major Headliners

Sure, they're huge now, but do you know who helped them get their start?

Written by Emilee Lindner • Photography by Rick Diamond/Getty Images • February 23, 2017

From Taylor Swift to Aerosmith, find out who these icons opened for back before they were headliners.

Rihanna opening for Pussycat Dolls

Rihanna tagged along for the European leg of The Pussycat Dolls’ PCD World Tour in 2006, promoting her second album A Girl Like Me. Now, with eight albums into her career, Rihanna is not only headlining her own tours, but she’s heading up festivals. She’s got eight Grammys and doesn’t look like she’s stopping at all. But it’s still fun to revisit the days when she’d sing “S.O.S.” and “Unfaithful” onstage with simple production and four leotard-clad dancers.

Taylor Swift opening for Rascal Flatts

Back before Taylor Swift was selling out stadiums, she was playing her country tunes for the fans of much bigger acts. She’s opened for Tim McGraw (appropriate, since she used his name for her first single) and Faith Hill, George Strait, Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts. Her days opening are far behind her, and in 2013, she invited Rascal Flatts to play onstage with her at her Red Tour.

Lady Gaga opening for Semi Precious Weapons

While Lady Gaga just played one of the most famous stages in the world: the 2017 Super Bowl halftime show, she started on much smaller stages in New York. In her early club days, she opened for Justin Tranter’s band Semi Precious Weapons, and as soon as she gained traction, she invited them to open for her. Now, Gaga has multiple No. 1 albums under her belt, she’s become a household name around the world, and she's headlining stadiums this summer.

Foo Fighters opening for Mike Watt

Foo Fighters had a lot of buzz behind them as Dave Grohl transitioned from Nirvana to a new endeavor, but they still started out small before becoming the mammoth band they are now. The Foos opened for punk bassist Mike Watt, who also enlisted Grohl, Pat Smear and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder to fill out his band for an old-school club tour in 1995. While the supergroup was fun for the two months it lasted, Foo Fighters of course went on to win 11 Grammys, sell out stadiums, and are still going over 20 years later.

Fall Out Boy opening for Punchline

In 2003, Fall Out Boy and Fueled By Ramen labelmates Punchline opened for Less Than Jake together. A year later in the summer of 2004, Fall Out Boy supported Punchline in Japan, where they had a decent following. FoB was promoting the release of Take This To Your Grave and were a year away from mass popularity when Under The Cork Tree went double platinum.

No Doubt opening for Bush

Although No Doubt and Bush were both staples of the ‘90s, No Doubt got even bigger after the turn of the millennium. But back in 1995 and '96, Gwen Stefani and company opened for the “Glycerine” band with The Goo Goo Dolls. Lead singers Stefani and Gavin Rossdale found their spark on the tour, eventually getting married... and then divorced.

Blink 182 opening for 7 Seconds

Blink 182 was just starting out when they got invited to the GoodTimes Tour in '95 and '96. The trek supported a surf video and had the future pop-punk icons opening for 7 Seconds, a band from Reno, Nevada. Originally, Blink was going to turn down the invite because they couldn't afford to travel, but fellow touring band Pennywise paid for their plane tickets, and the rest is history.

Aerosmith opening for Sha Na Na

While it’s hard to imagine the legendary Aerosmith opening for anyone, the Bad Boys from Boston have opened for Mott The Hoople and The Kinks. There are stories floating around the internet from people at a show where Aerosmith opened for Sha Na Na in the early ‘70s, when Aerosmith’s “Dream On” was just starting to take off. Sha Na Na had oodles of fame back in the day, with a spot at Woodstock and their own TV show, but Aerosmith went on to sell multi-platinum albums and get inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Jimi Hendrix opening for The Monkees

The Jimi Hendrix were just about to take off in America when they were invited on tour with teen pop band The Monkees. Although Hendrix, 22 at the time, was wary about the gigs, his manager convinced him it would gain him more mainstream attention. A few shows in, however, Hendrix flipped off the crowd at Forest Hills in New York City and left the tour.

Shawn Mendes and Fifth Harmony opening for Austin Mahone

When Shawn Mendes was just a kid making Vines on the Internet, he opened for Fifth Harmony, who opened for Austin Mahone. Fifth Harmony went on to become one of the best-selling girl groups of all time, and Mendes went on to have two No. 1 albums.