Last night will go down in history as the night that a whole country went to a rock and roll show. The country was Canada (mine) and the show was courtesy of one of the finest bands ever to call Canada home, The Tragically Hip.
The main engine of The Hip is a man named Gord Downie. He is the front man, the voice and the inspiration of virtually all of the The Hip’s music.
The band originally formed in Kingston Ontario in 1984, but they didn’t really catch on until the early 1990s, which is when I became aware of them.
I have always been partiar to bands with a front man who was some kind of creative genius, and frankly from the get go you could tell that Gord Downie was all that and a bag of chips.
Downie is one of those enigmatic characters cut from the same cloth as guys like David Byrne (Talking Heads) and Michael Stipe (R.E.M.). In fact, for guys like me, that would make one hell of a triple bill.
Earlier this year, It was announced that Gord Downie had been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. The country took it very hard because this band was one that stayed true to its Canadian roots and had a huge following here.
In the spirit of closure, I guess, they decided to have a farewell tour so that everybody could say goodbye to Mr Downie. There was a bit of controversy over ticket scalping but the tour basically carried on across Canada to sellout crowds everywhere.
Last night the final concert, in Kingston, took place and was televised by the CBC.
I had been a fan of The Hip for years but had never really seen them live. So we cranked up with Bose sound system and dug in for the whole two and a half hour, triple encore extravaganza…and what a treat it was.
As Downie grew as a poet/lyricist/composer the bands sound became decidedly more artsy in its presentation.
The first half of the concert was dedicated to showcasing their evolution. The second half was all about showing their history and they have created some real masterpieces along way.
And this show just grew and grew with a purity and intensity that you seldom get to see on a concert stage.
The other good thing is that I would be very surprised if the entire country wasn’t tuned into this concert. The CBC is really the only network in Canada that can reach into the far north where some cable companies fear to tread.
Toward the end of the second encore, you could really see that Downie was literally going through a major Gestalt, letting out a range of emotions from fatigue, to anger to sadness, and it kind of made me feel the same way, as I ma sure it did with everybody else/
This guy’s probably only in his early 40s. He’s an absolutely brilliant writer and a magnificent performer and here he is getting cut down in his prime by this stupid fucking disease that has shortened the lives of so many amazing people.
I have never seen a live performance by anyone with the sheer human intensity that Gord Downie put into this final performance. It was captivating, powerful and at the same time profoundly sad.
I sincerely wish Gord Downie a peaceful passing, and offer my sincere thanks for all their great original music over the years.
Thanks to Kevin Lamb for the pic that sums it all up beautifully.