Eddie Vedder preshow message
Pete addresses the crowd
We're Not Gonna Take It
See Me Feel Me
Who Are You
Ball and Chain
Won't Get Fooled Again
Behind Blue Eyes
The Real Me
Love Reign O'er Me
Review by Mark Wilkerson
This was a last-minute trip. I wasn’t planning on going to Cincinnati because my first grandchild was due on 5/14/22 and even in this family, that takes priority over Who concerts :-) The baby, a little boy named Oscar, arrived two weeks early. He and his mother are doing fine, so all’s well. I figured this weekend would be a quiet one spent at home. I’d made peace with not going to Cincinnati, even though it’s only a 90 minute drive from here.
Then on Saturday night, I get a message from Horace Austin, who has a FRONT ROW ticket available, as one of his fellow Who crazies (and I use the term affectionately) unfortunately had to drop out due to health issues. I hear he’s now doing ok and I wish him a speedy recovery. Now I’ve never had the opportunity to witness The Who from the front row, and after a quick consultation with my wife, who is a saint and understands these things, I took it.
Next afternoon I’m in Cincy, hanging out with people many of whom I last saw at the Rock Honors get together in 2008. We had a little pre-show hangout at a pub not far from the stadium and then made our way to the show. The opening act was a local band named Safe Passage, and two members had attended the 1979 Cincinnati Who show. The last song they performed was dedicated “to those who couldn’t join us tonight” - Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.
At 8:30, the boys hit the stage – Zach wearing a yellow PEM Memorial t-shirt, which he proudly stood up & pointed to later that evening. Simon was wearing an FC Cincinnati shirt with NICHOLLS across the back – maybe Billy didn’t want his shirt… maybe the TOWNSHEND one had the ‘H’ missing… who knows?! Pete had a red scarf wrapped around his throat, which I assume was to provide comfort after his recent issues losing his voice in Texas. He took it off later in the show.
And then they were off – into the Tommy medley, and Who music was being played live in Cincinnati for the first time in 43 years. The names of the eleven souls who were lost that evening in December 1979 ran along the stadium ribbon throughout the show. Pete and Roger didn’t say much about that night, nor did they need to. The little tribute later on said plenty.
Highlights for me were Join Together, Relay, You Better You Bet, the Quadrophenia medley (I’m EXTREMELY Quadrophenia-biased). Pete was particularly animated during an extended solo in the second half of 5:15, making eye contact with Zach, windmilling and pogoing away. Roger was in fine voice and fine form all night, as if determined to set a respectful but positive tone for the evening. The respect came across loud and clear during a beautiful extended prelude to Love, Reign O’er Me during which the stage lights were dimmed and the faces of those lost in 1979 were displayed, one at a time on the video screen. The band stood and watched in silence, unlit. The entire process took probably 4 or 5 minutes, a long period of time where Loren Gold played solo piano accompaniment. It was very touching and the perfect tribute. Lots of tears were shed in the crowd. When the lights came back up onstage and Love, Reign O’er Me kicked in, I saw Roger wiping away tears, and Billy Nicholls was overcome too. Because of this lead-up it’s the most powerful rendition of Love, Reign O’er Me I’ve seen.
The perfect ending to the show was a celebratory Baba O’Riley (why on earth do they spell the f**king name of the song wrong on the setlist?!) which featured many members of the Finneytown High School orchestra and choir. Three of those who’d died in 1979 were Finneytown students. I’d managed to somehow maintain dry eyes throughout the night until the choir kicked in at the end. It was beautiful, Pete and Roger both encouraging them as the song drew to a close.
A beautiful evening and I’m so glad I was there. Thanks Horace for thinking of me!
Review by Lauren J. Hammer
As all Who fans know, Cincinnati will always loom large in Who world. Those 11 tragic deaths, in 1979, could have happened at any similar concert. It just happened to be a Who show. But in the end, it WAS a Who show, and everyone connected with the band has had to live with that and attempt to make some sense of it and some peace with it, over the years.
The Who and their team did an extraordinary job of handling the evening. The tributes and recognitions were tasteful and thoughtful. They included:
• The opening band, Safe Passage, included members who were connected to people from that tragic night and who have been active in the PEM memorial / scholarship fund.
• A taped message from Eddie Vedder.
• Zak wore a PEM shirt on stage for the night.
• Both Pete and Roger spoke at different times throughout the show and conducted themselves quite well, IMO. (Thankfully, no misguided “Pete foot in mouth” occurrences.)
• Recognition of PEM - the memorial / scholarship group.
• Some guest orchestral musicians from local schools (wearing the yellow PEM shirts).
• After The Rock (which, disappointingly, was not accompanied by the usual video montage) there was an amazing, powerful interlude, where Loren played some beautiful piano, while each young person who died that night, was shown on the big, video screens. Each person was up there for something like a full, 30 seconds. No name. No comment. Just the b&w photo. You could hear various sections of the venue erupt, with each photo that went up. Concurrently, the names of each of the 11 was circulating around the ring of the stadium. The stage was dark, except for a simple light on Loren, as he played. It was powerful. It was tasteful. Kudos to the entire Who team, to everyone who had a hand in the decisions and the execution.
• Baba included a choir of local young people, all wearing PEM shirts. They sang Pete’s bridge. It was a remarkable sequence. Perfect.
There was no “right” thing to do in circumstances such as these, but I must say that The Who and their team, from my vantage point, did a remarkable job of engaging the situation.
The show itself was a solid, but mostly unremarkable. They’ve cut it down, IMO, to too short, and they aren’t playing anything exciting to me, outside of the Tommy and Quad material. It was my first show without Imagine a Man - which I absolutely considered one of the highlights of the show every night. By far, my favorite track of the non-Tommy/Quad material.
One exception to my “solid but unremarkable” comment - Love Reign, which came right after the extended tribute, was emotional and powerful. I don’t even remember what Roger “sounded” like, but I do remember how it “felt.”
As for me, my decision to go, came late in the game. Being such a special night, it was on my “wildcard” list since the tour was announced, and in the closing few weeks, all of the pieces came together to make it viable in my world. Thank you to each of the different people who had a hand in that.
Personally, I did something I’ve never done before - show up unannounced. Only one of my friends, who had helped out with local logistics, even knew that I was coming. Not even my Who husbands knew. Surprising everyone was GREAT FUN!
Location: I was in my magic, happy place, in the sweet spot, FRC, between Roger and Pete. With the high stadium stage, Scott was even more in our way than usual. I did talk to him, briefly, before the show. Apparently, they were mindful of that, which is why the front row was as far back as it was - trying to improve our viewing angle, relative to his blockage.
Merch: There was a special Cincinnati shirt. The front is much busier than would be my preference, but I dug the 5 15 on the back. I like, subtle, when it comes to shirts. And no, friends, I did not get any extras for anyone. By the time their existence was brought to my attention before the show, I went out searching, during the opening band, and they were already sold out. Demand was radically underestimated. I convinced a merch guy to take his demo shirt down off the wall for me, but that was it.