The fate of one of the last major summer tours in the lurch has been decided: The long-awaited 50th-anniversary tour, which would have reunited the band with its former keyboardist and singer Michael McDonald, has been rescheduled for 2021. “This decision has been made with the health and safety of the Doobie Brothers’ fans, crew, and local employees in mind,” the band said in an announcement Tuesday.
The 30-city trek had been scheduled to start two weeks from Tuesday, June 9th, in West Palm Beach, Florida, and would have continued through October, with a final show in Houston. In addition to McDonald, the lineup included co-founders Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons, and longtime guitarist John McFee, along with members of the current Doobies touring band.
The tour will now start in the same city, West Palm Beach, on July 17th, 2021, ending October 23rd in New Orleans. Dates have been canceled in Mount Pleasant, Missouri; Sioux City, Iowa; Boise, Idaho; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Little Rock, Arkansas; Bossier City, Louisiana; and Memphis .
Announced last December, the tour would have been the first in decades featuring McDonald, who joined the band in 1976 after its first run of hits with original lead singer and co-founder Tom Johnston. Johnston and McDonald were both part of a Doobies tour that year, but Johnston left the band in 1977. With McDonald, the Doobies enjoyed a second wave of hits like “What a Fool Believes,” with a very different, more R&B-rooted sound. When the Doobies reunited in the late Eighties, Johnston was back, but McDonald continued with his solo career.
Speaking with Rolling Stone in March, during the early days of the pandemic, Johnston was already giving thought to its impact on the tour. “That’s an unknown,” he said. “Sure, it could affect the tour. It’s already shut down a lot of stuff. I don’t know how severe it’s going to get in the United States. You don’t want a lot of people to get sick, and that would be the reason for canceling dates or sectors of the tour. It really depends on when they get a grip on this thing, and instead of an upward trend like it is now, a downward trend. At this point they don’t have that.
“You’re dealing with a complete unknown,” he added. “I’ve never been involved with anything like this in my life. And I don’t think anybody else has.”
The rescheduled tour dates are one of several setbacks the band has confronted this year. In February, the Doobies had to postpone two weeks of shows during its residency in Las Vegas when Johnston fell ill. This spring, the band was also scheduled to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; as of press time, that ceremony has been postponed to November 7th.
Talking about the reunion tour in March, though, Johnston was upbeat. “We’ve got a huge catalog of songs, and now going out with Michael will bring in his stuff, too,” he said. “Fifty years of doing this. We are damn lucky, man. Not many people get to hang around this long.”