An announcement was made this week that The Who will embark upon their “farewell tour” in 2015. The series of shows to commemorate the band’s 50th anniversary will be the last big world tour according to Pete Townshend. When I heard the announcement, I couldn’t help but smile. If not for my mom’s recent passing, she surely would have called me to joke about this announcement, and remind me that the band made the same claim in 1982.
About a month before my 14th birthday, The Who were coming to town to play Shea Stadium. At the time, I truly believed that it would be my only opportunity to see one of my all-time favorite bands. After much begging and pleading, my parents finally relented and gave me permission to go to my first “real” concert (see Hard Rock Music Time Machine – 1981: Molly Hatchet – “Flirtin’ With Disaster).
My friend, Rico, and I arrived at Shea Stadium just as David Johansen took the stage as the first opening act. This was before his bizarre career decision to become Buster Poindexter. Johansen was fine, but we were too psyched for The Who to pay much attention. The Clash followed Johansen, and though we couldn’t wait for the main attraction, the English punk rockers made the entire crowd stand up and take notice with their energetic performance.
A burst of adrenaline rushed through us as The Who took the stage and launched into their set. The heat from the crowd took the chill out of the crisp autumn air. For approximately two hours, The Who showed why they were known as one of the greatest live acts ever. The only disappointment of the night was seeing the show come to an end, a bittersweet moment, as I believed that I would never get the chance to see them perform live again. I should have suspected that wasn’t the case when I purchased a concert shirt emblazoned with the words “The First Farewell Tour.”
Since Rico lived very close to Shea Stadium, we should have gotten back to his house shortly after the concert ended, but traffic remained at a standstill for over two hours. Cell phones hadn’t been invented yet, and there was no way for my parents to get in touch with me. I didn’t wear a watch, so I had no idea how late it was until we walked into Rico’s house at around 2:00am. My mom was understandably panicked, but not just because of the late hour.
The sold-out show was supposed to have a capacity of around 70,000 people, but because of gate crashers, the attendance was estimated to be around 100,000. As a parent, I can appreciate the terror that my parents must have felt seeing the story on the news and being unable to reach me by phone. If I’d have known about the gate crashing, I would have found a pay phone to let them know that I was fine, but I had no idea that anything out of the ordinary had happened until we finally spoke in the middle of the night.
When my parents picked me up the following day, they told me that I wouldn’t be going to anymore concerts in the near future. Around two months later, I was able to convince them to change their stance and allow me to attend the Rush “Signals” Tour at the Nassau Coliseum…the second of many hard rock concerts that I would attend.