The Who Reflect on Cincinnati Return, Decades After Tragedy

Pete Townshend reflected on the Who’s return to Cincinnati, nearly 43 years after a tragic crowd rush killed 11 young fans prior to the band’s performance at Riverfront Coliseum.

“I think [returning is] going to be great. I think there’s been such a difficulty with dealing with our feelings about it… I think it’s gonna be really good,” the guitarist told Billboard in a recent interview, previewing the band’s May 15 show at TQL Stadium. “For us to come back to Cincinnati after such a long time… we should never have left,” he added. “It gives us a chance to get back there and reconnect, which is very, very important for us.”

Townshend also predicted the Sunday night show will “bring us all together.”

The horrific tragedy, which also resulted in eight others seriously injured, occured ahead of the Who’s show on Dec. 3, 1979. The performance was allowed to proceed due to fears of rioting over a cancelation, but the Who were not informed about what happened until after finishing their set.

Both Townshed and singer Roger Daltrey addressed the event in 2019 documentary The Who: The Night That Changed Rock. “You know, I’m still traumatized by it,” Townshend told WCPO. “It’s a weird thing to have in your autobiography that, you know, 11 kids died at one of your concerts. It’s a strange, disturbing, heavy load to carry. Daltrey added, “That dreadful night of the third of December became one of the worst dreams I’ve had in my life.”

Given that context, the Who realize their Cincinnati return will be a lot to process.

“It’s been a long time coming but finally, here we are back in Cincinnati,” the band tweeted Sunday. “We can’t wait to be back on stage and seeing so many of our friends from this great city. It’ll be quite an emotional night for everyone but we hope it’ll be a good one full of love, respect and healing.”

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