Ageing British rockers The Who played a thrilling comeback concert in front of a packed house at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, but what should have been a peaceful performance by some harmless old men was marred by extreme violence before and after the event.
Guitarist Pete Townshend was visibly shaken. ‘I know my on-stage antics can sometimes look aggressive, but I’ve never encountered this kind of reaction. It’s as much as I can do these days to whirl my arm around in my trademark ‘windmill’ without needing a rest afterwards, and wrecking our equipment on stage has become a bit passé, so yes, I was shocked by what I saw.’
Singer Roger Daltrey described the scenes in the stadium as approaching open warfare, with gangs of rival body builders dressed in casual sportswear lining up and repeatedly smashing into each other. ‘They even wore helmets and body armour. I’m surprised no one was killed. At least they stopped for commercial breaks and the National Anthem, but then this is America . What was most surprising was the way the crowd were not only unperturbed by the carnage, they actually seemed to be enjoying it. Many of them even interrupted their eating and drinking to cheer the perpetrators on.’
Daltrey said it was worse than anything they had witnessed in the Mods v Rockers battles of the 1960s or on the North bank at Highbury in the 1970s. ‘Someone said something about a game of football, but they never stopped for long enough to get a game going. Occasionally we did see people trying to run off with a small object that looked a bit like a toy rugby ball, or throwing it to their mates, but we think this must have been some kind of group bag-snatching training.’
Townshend admitted they had been concerned beforehand about adverse reaction to his ill-advised internet research some years ago, for which he was cautioned but not prosecuted, but any protests were overshadowed by the fighting. ‘Someone asked me what I thought about my pariah status, and I said I thought Mariah was a great singer but not in our league musically. Fucks your ears up, playing as loud as we do, I can tell you.’