Mike Davies, Editor-in-Chief Ω
Gordie and the boys from Kingston took everyone who packed into the Interior Savings Centre (ISC) on Jan. 13 for a tour of the Tragically Hip’s long musical history.
The Hip, as they are simply known, have been touring hard for almost 30 years. They stopped periodically, but just long enough to record 12 studio albums along the way. It is impossible to say whether it is the music or the show that has turned them into the Canadian rock icons they’ve become over time, but based on the ISC performance, one likely can’t be separated from the other once you’ve seen it.
Whether riding around the stage in an imaginary gondola using his microphone stand as the pole, or putting on some strange Kabuki-type theatre performance that only he can understand — with characters like Handkerchief, Vest and Hat — front man Gord Downie put off a contagious energy and just straight up exuded fun.
Playing just the right blend of old classics and new releases, The Hip seemingly touched on something from all 12 of those studio constructions, and though some of the choices — “It Can’t Be Nashville Every Night” was a strange choice from In Between Evolution, for example — overall, they gave both long-time fans and those who may be new to their music something to sing along to.
Not that you’d try if you’ve been a fan of the band for long. Downie is known for his spontaneity and often changes the words of his music on the fly — to the point that even his band doesn’t seem to know what’s going on at times. Playing together for that long, though, you can tell the rest of the crew is used to it, and they treat the stage more like a jam space than a venue for performance.
The Arkells, who visited TRU campus as part of the Tunes Against Tuition show during the fall 2012 semester, looked perfectly at home to a stadium full of fans eagerly awaiting the legends backstage, and engaged the audience with a selection of their own repertoire for a solid half-hour — likely sending many to iTunes (or wherever they get their music) immediately following the show. They are clearly better than their radio-aired singles would suggest.
While the sound quality at the ISC is less than exceptional, The Tragically Hip made up for it with their energy, camaraderie and well-earned status as Canadian icons — especially for fans who have heard decades of poor-sounding bootlegs of their shows.