The Who plans 1st Cincinnati concert since 1979 tragedy

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who perform live on stage at the Capitol Theater, Passaic, N.J. on Sept. 10, 1979. Michael Putland/Getty Images

The Who is returning to Cincinnati, Ohio next April for a concert on its critically acclaimed Moving On! tour.

The gig was announced unexpectedly by Cincinnati’s WCPO on Tuesday after the premiere of a new documentary titled The Who: The Night That Changed Rock.

The 45-minute documentary chronicles the events that preceded The Who’s Dec. 3, 1979 concert at the Riverfront Coliseum, now known as Heritage Bank Center, where 11 people tragically lost their lives.

Over the last 40 years, The Who has chosen not to perform in Cincinnati as a result, marking the 1979 gig as the iconic British rock band’s last appearance in the American city.

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The Rock & Roll Hall of Famers will return to Cincinnati in 2020 to acknowledge the horrific events of that day and ultimately reconcile with the townspeople by performing at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena.

The show will take place on April 23 and feature The Who’s regular backing band — as well as an entire orchestra — as revealed on the band’s website.

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What happened in 1979?

Ahead of The Who’s long-awaited 1979 show, thousands of fans lined up outside the venue hoping to get in and secure the best spot.

Confusion among many with respect to entry and set times soon led to disaster as eager fans began rushing the venue’s doors, which eventually resulted in a fatal stampede.

Eleven fans between the ages of 15 and 27 died as a result of asphyxiation that night. The Night That Changed Rock was created to honour those victims 40 years later.

(L-R) Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who onstage during a live performance at Woodstock Festival in White Lake, N.Y. on Aug. 16, 1969. Archive Photos/Getty Images

The band wasn’t aware of the tragedy until the concert was ending, according to the Associated Press (AP).

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Longtime manager Bill Curbishley made the decision to have the show go on, warning Cincinnati authorities that they wouldn’t be able to control the crowd if the concert was called off.

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While serving mostly as a memorial, The Night That Changed Rock also featured interviews with the two remaining original members of The Who: frontman Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend.

In the documentary, both admit they remain haunted by the unexpected tragedy, though Townshend, 74, told AP he was “glad” to have the opportunity to return to Cincinnati and discuss the tragedy.

“We will meet people and we’ll be there. We’ll be there. That’s what’s important,” he said. “I’m so glad that we’ve got this opportunity to go back.”

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The Who is set to donate proceedings from the upcoming concert to the P.E.M. Memorial, an organization founded to honour those who died on Dec. 3, 1979. The foundation helps provide college scholarships for students at Finneytown High School.

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Three of the 11 victims killed, including two 15-year-old girls who were the youngest victims, were students at the school.

On his quick thinking and ultimate decision during the day of the tragedy, Curbishley said: “Despite everything, I still feel inadequate. I left a little bit of my soul in Cincinnati.”

(L-R) Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who perform during the Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on Aug. 13, 2017 in San Francisco, Calif. Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

As well as their gig at the BB&T Arena, The Who has added a handful of additional U.S. shows to the Moving On! tour.

Full tour date listings, updates and additional information can be found through The Who’s official website.

— With files from the Associated Press

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