The Who honored the victims of the 1979 crowd surge in Cincinnati on their first performance in the city since the tragedy took place.
Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and the band performed for no fee at the TQL Stadium last night, turning the event into a memorial for the 11 fans who died at the Riverfront Coliseum (now Heritage Bank Center) on their previous visit. Nine of the victims’ families were represented in the crowd, given pride-of-place seats after having had dinner with the band, multiple sources reported.
The opening act, local group Safe Passage, included singer Walt Medlock and drummer Mike Simkin, who were both at the show 43 years earlier. Before the headline performance began, a video message from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder was shown to the audience. Saying he hoped to be there in person, he told the Who: “We’re all thinking about you. It’s a great thing remembering those young people, who will never be forgotten.”
When Townshend addressed the crowd, he admitted: “I’ve been trying to think of what to say, what would be cool to say, what would be uncool to say. … There’s no words that we can say that can mean [as much as] the fact that you guys have come out tonight and supported this event. Thank you so much.”
He joked to the audience that “you probably know we’re not being paid for this, so I’m not going to work very hard. But you are paying, and your money is going to great causes, many of which are related to what happened back here in Cincinnati in 1979.” Describing the show as “time for us to both remember and try to forget,” Townshend added that it was “lovely that we’re here and in this brand-new place.”
Watch Pete Townshend Address the Cincinnati Crowd
Photos of the 11 victims were shown during the classic song “Love Reign O’er Me” while their names – Walter Adams Jr. (22), Peter Bowes (18), Connie Sue Burns (21), Jacqueline Eckerle (15), David Heck (19), Teva Rae Ladd (27), Karen Morrison (15), Stephan Preston (19), Philip Snyder (20), Bryan Wagner (17) and James Warmoth (21) – were displayed on ribbon screens running around the stadium. Townshend dedicated the song to “those still affected by this tragedy we have never forgotten.”
Some of the money raised at the show will go toward 11 scholarships in memory of those who died. They were organized by a fund created in 2010 and previously supported by the Who.
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