The Who paid tribute to one of its early career benefactors on Tuesday night in Detroit.
Before the performance of its Moving On! Tour at the city’s Little Caesars Arena, the group used its video screen to offer an homage to the late Russ Gibb, the founder of the Grande Ballroom — where the Who played several historic shows during the late 60s — and who also happened to be the radio DJ who began spreading the rumor about Paul McCartney’s supposed death back in 1969.
Gibb struck up a friendship with the band, and particularly guitarist Pete Townshend, through Tom Wright, the Grande manager who had been an art student in London and Townshend’s roommate for a time. The Who played nine times at the Grande during 1968 and 1969, and it’s May 9-11 stand of the latter year marked the first North American performances of the rock opera Tommy more than a week before its release on album.
On Tuesday the Who offered a series of slides to honor Gibb, who passed away April 30 at the age of 87. Among them was a photo of Gibb, who was also a highly regarded educator and cable television pioneer, interviewing Townshend, as well as a shot of the Who performing at the Grande. The final slide proclaimed, “Goodbye, Russ — than you for such great times. You will be missed!”
The Who wraps up the first leg of the Moving On! Tour on May 30 in Pittsburgh. It returns Sept. 3, beginning in Toronto, and will play a special English date on July 6 at Wembley Stadium. The group is also wrapping up work on a new album, which Townshend told Billboard may be ready for release before the end of the year.