Everyone knows, or at least everyone in Canada knows The Tragically Hip's Gord Downey's situation. The 52 year old frontman of one of the most Canadian bands to ever walk the stage is dying from terminal brain cancer. They played their last show on Saturday August 20th in Kingston, Ontario.
In the lead up to this concert there has been a lot of press about the event, about Gord, and what this means to Canadians. It seemed like the entire country was rallying around Gord and the band.
I was never a big fan of The Hip, as they are known here in The Great White North. I never bought an album, none of their songs were on my playlist. Whether it was a mixed tape from the 90's or on my iPod now, there is no Hip.
The concert last night was broadcast for free on CBC, no pay-per-view, no commercials, no time delay to bleep out bad words, it was live, raw, and yes Gord said "fuck" many times. I never quite grasped the effect The Hip had on Canada until last night. The country was basically closed for business from 9:30pm until 12:30am as the Toronto Police Department Tweeted.
The final concert was held in the Downey's home town of Kingston, Ontario, at a small arena that 8000 lucky ticket holders got into. In downtown Kingston the main square was filled with 30,000 fans watching on big screens. All across Canada people gathered in stadiums, theatres, and filled downtown streets to witness the last Hip concert ever to take place. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in attendance.
Other than an Olympic hockey game, I have never witnessed an event like this bring so many Canadians together. The Olympics in Rio were put on hold by the CBC to air this!
The concert lasted three hours and had three encore performances. It was pretty amazing, and emotional. To be watching a dying man put on his last performance tugs at the emotions. I don't care who you are.
Gord is a pretty amazing performer, more poet than singer. Reminds me of Dylan without the annoying voice. He moves oddly around the stage, his facial expressions sometimes looking like a crazy man, before quickly snapping back to normal, if there is a normal. I liked it. It wasn't the norm.
I came to the realization at the end of the show that I knew almost every song they played. This is a band I never really paid a whole lot of attention to. How is that possible?
Then I read or heard someone say "The Hip played the soundtrack to our lives" It's true, the Hip were always in the background during what I call the formative years of our lives. Out of high school, in college, or university, then shitty jobs, falling in love, settling down, and all the parties along the way, The Hip were the background music in our lives. Just like the background music in those American Pie movies that you never really noticed while watching the movie, but instantly recognized when played on the radio.
So yes, I will be adding The Hip to my playlist, to play in the background for who knows how much of my life is left, or maybe it will be there to remind of how I got here.
Gord...thank you for the music.