The In Step Tour was a concert tour through the United States and Canada, from 1989 to 1990. Launched in support of their fourth and final studio album In Step, the tour was the third of which to include keyboardist Reese Wynans, who joined the band in 1985.
Like all of their previous tours, the In Step Tour was a basic, minimalistic production. The stage featured a simple light show that changed according to the mood of certain songs performed. Although they never followed a set list, all ten songs from In Step were played at least once during the tour, and as many as seven of them were included in each of the band's performances.
Consisting of 6 legs and 136 shows, the In Step Tour began on 4th May 1989 in Vancouver and ended on 26th August 1990 in East Troy, Wisconsin.
After the first two legs, the band co-headlined with Jeff Beck and Joe Cocker during the third and fifth legs, which were branded as "The Fire Meets the Fury" and "Power and Passion", respectively. The group had planned to embark on a European leg in September 1990, but it was cancelled after Vaughan died in a helicopter crash following the East Troy concert on August 27, 1990, during a return flight to Chicago.
The In Step tour was one of the highest-grossing concert tours of 1989, with the "Fire Meets the Fury" leg being awarded for being the most creative tour package of the year by Pollstar magazine.
A rehearsal for the In Step Tour took place on 3rd May 1989 at York Theatre in Vancouver, before the opening show at the city's Orpheum Theatre on the following night. Lighting designer Trey Hensley explained that Vaughan decided against lengthy rehearsals: "The band played all the time and didn't need to rehearse and didn't believe in spending money to rehearse." Like many of the band's preceding tours, which began ahead of the release of a new album, the tour started a month before In Step was released, giving fans a preview of new songs from the album.
The first leg of the tour alternated between both indoor and outdoor venues, with 15 concerts that were mostly indoor arena and theatre shows in May. After the release of In Step on June 13, the band performed 25 concerts throughout the United States and Canada from June to September.
During an extended break between the third and fourth legs of the tour, Stevie recorded Family Style with his brother Jimmie Vaughan in March 1990. They worked with producer Nile Rodgers at Ardent Studios in Memphis, and it would be their first and only collaboration. The album was ultimately released in September 1990, a month after Vaughan's death.
Following the conclusion of the "Power and Passion", leg of the tour Stevie took a short break from touring. In August 1990, he traveled to Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, where he spent time vacationing with girlfriend Janna Lapidus. Shortly after they had returned to their Manhattan apartment in New York City, Vaughan left for Kalamazoo, Michigan on August 24, where he reconvened with the band to perform at the county fair. They then moved on to East Troy, Wisconsin, where they were booked for two nights as the opening act for Eric Clapton at Alpine Valley Music Theatre.
Both shows, on August 25 and 26, were sold out with an audience of 40,000 each. The second show concluded with an encore jam session featuring Vaughan, Clapton, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy and brother Jimmie Vaughan. After the show, Vaughan talked with Layton backstage, where he expressed his gratification of the band's performances and optimism for the future of their career. Layton recalled the conversation: "He was in great spirits, we talked for, I guess, almost thirty minutes."
In the early morning of August 27, 1990, Vaughan and three members of Clapton's touring entourage boarded a Bell 206B, which was the third in a series of four helicopters to travel to Chicago's Midway Airport. The pilot, who was unqualified to operate a helicopter in foggy weather conditions, failed to gain enough altitude to fly the aircraft over a nearby ski hill, where it crashed shortly after take-off. Stevie and the four others on board were all killed instantly.
The band had originally planned to visit England, France and Switzerland in September after being absent from the European touring circuit for over two years, but the rest of the tour was canceled.