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The Who return to Cincinnati for their first show since 1979 tragedy

Proceeds go to PEM Memorial
Posted at 7:24 AM, Feb 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-07 14:28:53-05

CINCINNATI — The Who is finally returning to Cincinnati.

Forty-two years after 11 people were killed at the group's 1979 concert at Riverfront Coliseum, the legendary rock band and British Invasion legends will play TQL Stadium on May 15.

The band’s Cincinnati concert — its first since 1979 — was originally scheduled for April 23, 2020, at BB&T Arena in Kentucky. The coronavirus pandemic forced concert organizers to postpone in late March

"I'm very excited about the fact that we leave behind a legacy for Cincinnati that that goes forward for you - and that's really important," Roger Daltrey, the band's lead singer, said. "We had this planned for 2020. As it turned out, the pandemic, in some ways has been a blessing because (TQL Stadium) wasn't finished in 2020. So we were going to be playing a much smaller venue. We're now playing in an even larger venue, which obviously will raise more revenue."

Concert proceeds will go to the Pem Memorial, a scholarship fund created in memory of Stephan Preston, Jackie Eckerle and Karen Morrison. The three were Finneytown High School students who died outside the 1979 concert.

The 1979 tragedy was such a trauma for the band and the region that The Who hasn't returned to Cincinnati since.

"It's a weird thing to have in your autobiography that, you know, 11 kids died at one of your concerts,” Townshend said during a 2019 interview for The Who: The Night that Changed Rock. “It's a strange, disturbing, heavy load to carry.”

After fans charged at the stadium, the band wasn't even aware of what had happened. The crowd crush happened on the plaza outside; inside the arena, with walls between them and the paramedics and the sobbing survivors, the band played an entire concert before learning anyone had been hurt.

"That dreadful night of the third of December became one of the worst dreams I've had in my life," Daltrey said.

Bill Curbishley, the band's manager who witnessed the deaths and made the call to let the band play, said that night left its mark on him.

"Despite everything, I still feel inadequate,” he said. “I don't know about the guys, but for me, I left a little bit of my soul in Cincinnati."

In 2019, the band finally resolved to come back to the Queen City.

“It would be such a joyous occasion for us and such a healing thing, I think,” Townshend said in 2019.

Daltrey said the band refused to play the former Riverfront Coliseum — now known as Heritage Bank Center — where the tragedy occurred.

FC Cincinnati's president Jeff Berding said TQL Stadium seemed like an obvious choice.

"When we designed the stadium, it was to have big events happen in Cincinnati, that would promote Cincinnati on the world stage," Berding said.

After the band saw a mock-up for a show at TQL Stadium, and what it would potentially look like, the group's manager Bill Curbishley said they were sold.

"When I heard about the soccer stadium, I jumped for that straight away," Curbishley said. "Because it's in the heart there. And guess what? It's something new. It's something to breathe life into the community. And it's the first show they've ever had, so it makes a statement."

The band released their 2022 tour schedule on Monday, Feb. 7. Tickets for the TQL Stadium show are being sold on Seatgeek and will go on sale on Friday, Feb. 11, at 10 a.m.

Related Stories:
Tickets for The Who at TQL Stadium
WCPO Documentary | The Who: The Night that Changed Rock
Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey talk to WCPO about 1979 coliseum tragedy
Band manager Bill Curbishley was a hero the day 11 died outside Cincinnati event

WATCH NOW: The Who: The Night that Changed Rock