The Who’s Manager Explains Pete Townshend’s Unawareness About The Cincinnati Incident

The Who’s longtime manager Bill Curbishley spoke to Billboard and recalled the band’s Cincinnati concert years ago, known as a disaster and never forgotten. Also, Curbishley stated that the band’s guitarist Pete Townshend didn’t know anything about that in the beginning by revealing the reason.

The Who members didn’t know that one of their live performances would turn into a great tragedy during their 1979 Tour, their first after Keith Moon’s death. On December 3, 1979, the band performed at Riverfront Coliseum, known as Heritage Bank Center, in Cincinnati. Some fans, waiting outside to get the best seat to watch and hear the iconic band better, thought that The Who started playing earlier than the schedule.

It was the beginning of this tragedy; the audience began running to the door and tried to open it, which caused a severe crowd crush. As a result, eleven people died, and the band’s concert became a painful memory for the people from there, especially the victims’ relatives. The Who members started their live performance without knowing what happened outside because Curbishley decided canceling the show would create more significant problems.

After forty-two years, The Who returned to Cincinnati on May 15 for their The Who Hits Back Tour. The manager shared a conversation between him and Townshend about that incident. The guitarist emphasized that he realized the hard decision he made that night while they were unaware of the accident. Curbishley added that Townshend could never truly understand its scale because he didn’t witness it back then.

Curbishley shared his memories, saying:

“Afterwards, there was a pervading feeling of a job well done and a sense of calmness that we didn’t talk about. Funnily enough, I was going to send Pete a note last night to tell him it’s the last time I’ll talk to you or Roger about Cincinnati and tell him a couple of things.

As they were walking to the stage, he said, ‘Bill, I know how many difficult decisions you had to make that day,’ and I thought, ‘You don’t know how many!’ He never realized the scale of it because he never saw it. So the last words on this are that we memorialized it, had a musical service as such, and now it’s done.”

In addition, The Who members paid tribute to the victims during their first show by sharing their love and respect. The audience saw the pictures of the lost ones before the show to demonstrate the pain the band shared and to acknowledge the devastating incident.