As I have described in earlier posts such as Gord Downie: Canadian Musical Psychopath, The Tragically Hip’s front man is a bit of a maniac on stage. Being up close and personal with him at the Country of Miracles show last year gave me an appreciation for his lunacy in an intimate setting. I had yet to witness the full blown frenetic schism that he becomes when teamed up with massive electric guitar power and the chest thumping bass drum that collectively form The Tragically Hip.
For those of you, who have not seen The Hip live, trust me this is not one of those overproduced, lip synced cookie cutter perfect types of shows. Everything, I repeat everything is live. From Gord going wildly off topic in the middle of a song, ranting and raging about anything from sports, politics or inventing a new story on the spot. Thursday’s performance was no different in those regards.
Very early on in the performance Gord’s earplug belt pack ran low on battery power, instead of slowly losing volume the device sent a jolt of screeching noise feedback into his headgear and promptly died. The brain piercing jolt of electric noise caused Gord to rip the devices from his ears and scream into the microphone. Unleashing a diatribe comparing the electrical jolt to Pierre Berton driving the last spike directly into his brain times a million; simply put this is not your average Brittney Spears show.
From play fighting with his microphone stand and engaging the audience in word and music these guys are anything but corporate rag dolls out to earn a pay-cheque, The Hip love what they do and it shows.
The evening began with an unfortunate series of events, leaving me little time to watch the opening acts. Hey Rosetta! opened the night with what I heard appeared to be a quality performance. Blending a folky style to the music that appeared to get the girls in the first few rows up and dancing nicely.
Broken Social Scene was up next combining a hard edge sound with a great horn section that really livened up the performance. They interacted with the crowd claiming allegiance to both the Winnipeg Jets and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The sun was beginning to set when The Tragically Hip finally took the stage. Long shadows crossed the stage as Gord marched rhythmically across the stage arms and legs flailing with every giant step. He pantomimed every movement as to make himself larger than life, straw hat sitting upon his intelligent brow, his lips curled in Elvis like fury.
The Lonely End of the Rink, blasted out of the speakers and the assembled sweaty mass of fans, me included sang along with every word and nuance. Grace Too came next and the crowd settled and began to sway and pulse to the beat of Johnny Fay’s drum kit.
Rob Baker playing lead guitar often mimicked Gord’s outlandish behaviour striking many a classic guitar God pose while ripping off a howling solo. Likewise Paul Langlois and Gord Sinclair stalked the stage with their white shirts blazing in the light of the follow spots.
Touching moments pulled heartstrings of the crowd, as Gord and company dedicated Fiddler’s Green to fallen police officer Constable Garrett Styles who was killed during a traffic stop near Newmarket, Ontario.
The pace of the show was kicked into high gear again near the end of the performance with classic live renditions of New Orleans is Sinking and Little Bones.
The encore kept the party going well past Winnipeg’s 11 pm noise curfew, as The Hip blasted out Blow at High Dough, Wheat Kings and Music at Work.
As always Gord wanting the last and final word ended the performance as he stalked off stage, screaming at the audience. “Enjoy your summer, and drive the fucking speed limit!”
The Lonely End of the Rink
Love is a First
It’s a Good Life (If You Don’t Weaken)
Ahead By a Century
At the Hundredth Meridian
Courage (For Hugh Maclennan)
New Orleans is Sinking > Nautical Disaster > New Orleans is Sinking
Blow at High Dough
My Music at Work