Australia's two biggest bands, Powderfinger and Silverchair have teamed up for a national concert tour. The "Across The Great Divide" tour begins at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on August 29 and winds up 21 shows later on October 23, taking in all capital cities and many regional centres. Powderfinger will headline.

The project was mooted by the management of the two acts - Paul Piticco of Brisbane-based Secret Service and Sydney-based John Watson Management - and will see both bands visiting many regional areas for the first time.

"It's the first time these places have had a major act play these areas since Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel in the mid-1980s," says Piticco, who adds that the potential audience for the tour is 350,000.

In those cities which don't have sufficiently large indoor venues, the bands will erect a large custom designed 12,000 capacity tent in which to stage the shows. Tickets are priced at $89.90 for regional areas and $99.90 for metropolitan fans.

Between them, Powderfinger and Silverchair have sold 3.5 million albums in Australia. They share a record for the most ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) awards won by any Australian band, at 14 apiece.

Both band emerged in the mid-1990s while Silverchair have a younger audience. Both also have recently returned from lengthy breaks with albums that debuted at #1 on the Motorola ARIA chart.

Silverchair returned in March after five years, with their fastest selling album "Young Modern" (Eleven A Music Company/EMI Music Australia).

Powderfinger's first album in four years, "Dream Days At The Hotel Existence" (Dew Process/ Universal Music Australia) bowed this week, turning platinum (sales of 70,000 units) and is the fastest selling album release in Australia this year.

The joint venture acknowledges that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the country's indigenous community being allowed to vote. Its marketing and show signage will promote the Reconciliation Australia Web site, a non-profit venture which aims to reduce the 17-year gap in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous children.

Powderfinger singer Bernard Fanning says, "Reconciliation is an issue that both bands believe in. It's time that the mantle was taken up again publicly. There have been a lot of other issues in the media over the past ten years that have distracted a little bit from how important reconciliation is in Australia."

Before the release of the Powderfinger album, Fanning changed some lyrics of a song "Black Tears" which related to the death in custody of a Palm Island resident after being told it could prejudice the trial against the policeman charged with manslaughter. The trial, coincidentally, began in Queensland yesterday as the two bands announced their tour in Sydney.