The Who Play Cincinnati 43 Years Later


They don't look the same as that day in December of 1979. That was the tour that immediately followed the death of Keith Moon. They were all ragged from processing Moonie's death when death dealt everyone a very deadly hand. Why did it happen? It started with a radio station announcing that general admission tickets would be allowed into the venue at 3pm that day. General admission seats set up the deadly perfect storm of events. Back then it was common to sell tickets that way. If you were there early, you could power down to the front row, if you had it in you and Who fans definitely had the stamina for a scrum like that. Cincinnati in December? Freezing. The GA crowd clustered around the doors for two hours until 5pm when the venue, then called Riverfront Stadium, opened only one set of doors. As some of the fans entered through the two doors, others were pressed up against the unopened doors, banging and waiting impatiently. At about 7pm thinking they heard the beginning of Quadrophenia, it escalated. Badly. Those at the unopened doors surged toward the two opened doors and 11 people were trampled to death. The Cincinnati Fire Marshall confronted the Who's road manager Bill Curbishly to announce the show be cancelled, but Curbishley insisted it would create an even worse situation than the mayhem that had already crushed fans, one of them a 15 year old girl. So, the show, as they say, went on. The Who were not told of the melee until the show was over. Pete Townsend remembers being furious that they were up there playing their hits while people had died on the doorstep. In fact, he later thought they should've cancelled the entire tour. What came of it? Politicians seized the 'violence at rock concerts' talking point that ended with some bans against general admission seating. Cincinnati had one until 2004, when in of all places, they began allowing the free-for-all of GA at concerts again to attract big name acts back to the Queen City. Money, of course matters more. The Who finally achieved closure 43 years later last night. Names of the victims, most of whom would be in their 60's or 70's like the band, memorialized on the LED screens at the new venue as the band performed "Join Together" in tribute.


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