Sunday, August 21, 2016
Gord Downie, the Tragically Hip, and the Canada I Love
It took me a few years to fall in love with the Tragically Hip. I always loved their name, I thought it was so cool or...um...so hip.
And when I heard that their lead singer was a poet I was even more impressed.
But it wasn't until my big brother took me to one of their shows, that I realized what a great band they were.
And their final performance last night was the best and most moving show I have ever seen.
For it was both sad and joyful. Gord Downie was simply amazing. And never have I seen a musical event bring so many Canadians together.
With all of Canada watching, Gord Downie stormed a Kingston stage Saturday for the final show of what’s believed to be the Tragically Hip’s farewell tour, donning one last set of eye-catching outfits in silver and fuchsia, shimmying one last set of gloriously unpredictable dances, and howling one last set of those enigmatic poems that so many of us know pretty well by heart.
And, apparently, by throat, judging by the way this audience filled every inch of that small, sweaty arena with each syllable of Downie’s layered lyrics. This was a heroes’ welcome, and of course it was, given that it was Downie.
Or reduce so many of them to tears, including myself.
I liked everything about it. The singing, the music, Gord's wild costumes. What he had to say about Justin Trudeau.
“Well, you know, prime minister Trudeau’s got me, his work with First Nations. He’s got everybody. He’s going to take us where we need to go,” Downie said from the stage.
“We’re in good hands, folks, real good hands.
And what Justin had to say about him...
Trudeau told the CBC that the concert represents a way to not only say farewell to Downie, but also celebrate the singer and celebrate Canada. He said the concert was a powerful moment for all Canadians.
So of all the articles about the Tragically Hip's final tour, I think I like this one the best.
Rock and roll has always been in love with death. It’s the genre of the so-called Twenty-Seven Club, the genre of “I hope I die before I get old.”
This summer, in Canada, one band is living that connection fully and completely. Gord Downie, the lead singer of the Tragically Hip, is suffering from glioblastoma, a terminal tumor in his left temporal lobe. But dying hasn’t stopped the tour. Downie is coming out on stage every night to burn out publicly. It has been glorious.
For what it says about Gord Downie, and what it says about us...
The rapture of the crowd was total. They wanted to be with Downie until the end. This being Canada, though, nobody acknowledged what was really happening.
Downie didn’t speak to us, though he is famous for his onstage rambles. Maybe he was silent because if he started talking, he would have to talk about death and everything else, or maybe it was because there really was nothing to say. During “Boots or Hearts,” one of the band’s biggest hits, Downie laughed and the crowd laughed with him. At times he looked dumbfounded by joy. He was transcendent and he knew it.
You know, like Stephen Marche, I'll never understand why the Tragically Hip were so big in Canada, but all but ignored in the United States.
Why they have never translated to the American audience is one of the great mysteries of Canadian popular culture. I have never heard or read a convincing explanation. Their songs are catchy, and every other act anywhere near their size in Canada has gone on to success elsewhere. But the Tragically Hip belong to the North alone, it seems.
But that's the American's problem, or their loss. They didn't get it, we did. We liked that they sang for and about us, and that's why we loved them so much.
How great that their long musical journey should end in Kingston, where it all began about about thirty years ago...
And what a great journey it was.
I hope Justin Trudeau told Gord Downie how proud we are of him and his friends...
And how brave he is to stare down death in such a joyous and inspiring manner.
I hope he told him that we will never ever forget him.
And that his songs and his poems will always be part of the Canada we love...
De Adder/Halifax Herald
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