Gord Downie: Canadian Musical Legend.

For anyone who is a fan of The Tragically Hip the title of this post should come as no surprise.  For the rest of you, sit back as I try to capture the spirit of a Canadian poet, songwriter, musician, wise man and raving lunatic.


Gord Downie (Photo – Robert Ogden)


I had the great fortune of being offered a ticket to see Gord Downie and his new band The Country of Miracles last night in concert.  For the record I am a fan of The Tragically Hip and have been so since I first heard the song Little Bones, off the Road Apples album in the early 90’s.  The catchy lyrics and rocking beat lead me to other tracks such as 50 Mission CapNew Orleans is Sinking


Gord Downie Singing a Duet with Julie Doiron. (Photo – Robert Ogden)


The enigmatic lead singer Gord Downie has always seemed one step shy of going over the edge into oblivion.  His rambling rants are pure bootleg gold to true fans.  Often degenerating into tales of murder and accidental suicide, or fanciful trips to the bottom of the killer whale tank.  It is in the mind of Downie that the bulk of his bands music and lyrics are born.  Often referred to as Canada’s John Lennon, by DJ Howard Manshine.  His persona dances from a Jim Morrison like madman to a brilliant social architect in a heartbeat on stage.


A Very Intense Gord Downie (Photo – Robert Ogden)


His lyrics often speak of Canadiana, from the rolling fields of the west, to the lakes and forests of the north.  The land, it’s people and animals take centre stage in a way that I have not heard since Gordon Lightfoot was singing in his youth. The songs unfolding like a storybook.  His words could lead the listener to a sinking ship, or perhaps a prison, maybe a first kiss.  One really ever knows, until the tale is finished.


Interacting With an Enthusiastic Crowd (Photo – Robert Ogden)


Last night’s performance with his new band The Country of Miracles showcased the artist in Downie.  Moving through songs of love and loss, the spirit of the land, and even an ode to the tragedy of 9/11.  The ever changing musical chameleon used a simple light and shadow display to add depth to his craft.  Depicting the various scenes on an overhead projector, with a Pink Floyd-esque flair.  Oil and water mixed with dyes to set the scene.


Gord Mixes Ink to Set Scene (Photo – Robert Ogden)


Stopping only briefly to rant about the importance of enjoying the moments in our lives.  A plea not to become archivists peering through a camera viewfinder and missing the essence of the show.  He implored, “Save nothing, use everything. Live in the moment, live in the now.  Use it all up, don’t hold any of it back. Live every moment, save nothing, use everything up!”


Gord Explaining the Secrets of the Universe (Photo – Robert Ogden)


He asked me, your humble scribe, shouting at me,  just feet away.  “Do you love? Do YOU really love someone?”  I replied “Yes. Yes I do!” Then he was gone, moved on to the next lyric in the song.

A reminder perhaps of how fleeting life is, how we can let those special moments slip away when we least expect.  Cherish every second, keeping it in our memories, imperfect but uniquely our own. It was in that moment I realized yes Gord Downie is a madman.  A hyperactive dashboard Jesus sent to save our souls.  A perfectly brilliant psychopath, and that suits me just fine.


Gord Downie (Photo – Robert Ogden)

Authors Note: An especially observant reader brought up a good point to me the other day.  The original title was Gord Downie: Canadian Musical Psychopath. And I agree that since his death earlier this year to brain cancer that title was no longer appropriate.  The point I was trying to get across was that when Gord was in full flight on stage no one in the audience had any idea what he was going to do.

I have seen him admonish the audience for taking pictures with cell phones and the next second go on to joke about the Winnipeg Jets.  His rants were the stuff of legend as were his lyrics thus I think it’s entirely appropriate to substitute psychopath with legend.  For my dollar I’d rank him right up there in the Canadian pantheon with Gordon Lightfoot and Leonard Cohen. And that is really saying something about this man.


13 responses to “Gord Downie: Canadian Musical Legend.

  1. Your description of Gord is fantastic!
    There is no other frontman like him!
    His lyrics bring people together , bring joy the the hearts of many and makes us all proud to be Canadian!

    • Welcome to my blog Redawna! I most heartily agree Gord Downie has an ethereal quality to his persona, while at the same time grounding his work with a sweaty working mans realism. I must admit I got super lucky scoring the tickets to that performance, my buddy from work had a pair and the person who originally was going with had to drop out last minute.

      It was a rare rush seating arrangement so we arrived early and took spots standing right in front of the stage. The Country of Miracles didn’t play any “Hip Tunes” that night but I throughly enjoyed his new work.

      Please feel free to stop by again anytime and tell your friends, there are plenty of seats and cookies to go around for everyone here!!

  2. Love it. Your post, the show, Gord, Julie, everything! The fans, too. I go to a lot of shows, and there with the Country of Miracles or The Hip, you cannot find a more diverse, age-spanning and respectful group of fans at any other show.

    I was/am hesitant to write a post on my site…not entirely sure what to write about. Usually I post a picture and setlist…but just went to the show all “old school” without anything except money for beer and maybe some merch.

    Favourite moment by far was “Steeplechase” and I thought “Yer Possessed” was the best performance of the night.

    • Thanks for stopping by Graham. Glad you enjoyed my little write up on the show. I do also try to get out to a few shows a year but this one was a photo op in the making.

      How may I ask did you manage to find my corner of the world? It seems that I have been getting more than a few new people popping by lately. I see that you’re from Winnipeg also.

  3. Thanks for the welcome! I am a newbie food/photo blogger, Rocky Mountain loving prairie girl!
    I am writing from Alberta, just north of Grande Prairie!

    I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Gord in the midnight darkness behind his tour bus on the 29th of September! I have been a fan of his, and the Hips since I was in junior high! His solo work is wonderful, a bit more mellow but has a fantastic sound.

    I look forward to following your blog and if it is alright I would like to put a link to it on my blog roll on Nutmeg Disrupted. It is great to find fellow Canadians in the blogging world. I will be sure to spread the word!

    Been along day of cooking, good old Ukrainian food for a huge Thanksgiving feast! Just cooking down the turkey broth, enjoying a coffee and editing all the photos from the day……..next up….Christmas!

    • Redawna please feel free to put up a link to Bob’s Place on your site.
      I would love to return the favour for you.

      I also am fairly new to blogging, I have only been doing it for just shy of a year. It’s a pretty steep learning curve, mostly I have learned to do a great deal of self editing. I know that I have the ability to ramble on and on. But short and sweet is better than long and unread.

      I post on whatever strikes my mood here, but mostly I try to keep it to a Winnipeg and area theme. I love to write about food, local events and music.

      I know your pain about cooking, I just finished killing off the turkey I roasted last night. I made soup stock from scratch and just had my first bowl of homemade turkey soup. Very yummy!!

      Be seeing you around I hope, Happy Thanksgiving.

  4. The double suicide rant is pretty wild

    • Yea the double suicide is one of my faves. It’s weird how a band like The Tragically Hip has attained super stardom here in Canada and really has never broken through in a serious way down south.

      So many of my new readers may have never even heard of The Hip. Gord can get pretty political in his ramblings, but one thing for sure is that no two shows are ever the same!!

  5. Sounds like this guy is corny. Screaming at a humble scribe notwithstanding. Pardon me but Gordon was no Jim Morrison.

    • You know traveler for once I agree with you. Jim Morrison was an alcoholic, a drug abuser and narcissist.
      He drove everyone he worked with away from him, in spite of being a brilliant songwriter.

      Gord on the other hand attracts people with his charisma, instead of sending them running away.

  6. You know, I’ve heard mixed reviews about Gord’s new gang, and haven’t heard enough of it myself to know if they’ll be much different from the Hip. I completely agree that Downie is a brilliant lyricist – it’s probably what I appreciate about him most. Sounds like it was a good show. Great to see that Julie Doiron is still hitting the scene – she’s fantastic! Thanks for sharing and for stopping by my blog the other day… 😉

    • Thanks for stopping by my humble abode Suze. I actually found that the music was a little less frantic with his new ensemble. The chemistry was clearly evident between band members though. The band was tight, and Julie and Gord sang as if lovers on the stage.

      Julie really seemed to serve as a counterbalance to Gord’s manic nature. Although he did spend a fair amount of time, skittering about the stage in full rant mode. He introduced the band by drawing lines on the overhead projector to each of them and asking them to name the body of water close to their home town. He also went off on an anti-establishment rant directed at the NHL. If you know anything about Winnipeg, you will know that this town wants our Winnipeg Jets back from Phoenix. He did a full 5 min or so on why Winnipeg didn’t need or should want the team back. This left most of the audience booing, yes booing, Downie openly.

      I enjoy your blog very much, please feel free to stop by here anytime!