The escape is at hand for the travelling man, as the Tragically Hip arrive home to a warm homecoming in Kingston, Ontario. They played to a sold out K-Rock Centre, to an audience full of energy and gumption, and created a truly remarkable evening.
Their stage, by today’s standards, could be described as simple. It was clean and well lit, with a myriad of colours, allowing the music to be the central focus. A series of panels hung behind the band illuminating at different times in different colours, changing the mood of each song. During We Want to Be It, little yellow drips gently rained down as the band sang “drip, drip, drip…” What was perhaps the most important feature was the big screens and several cameras in the pit that provided a live feed to the audience. This allowed everyone, far and wide, to get closer and see Gord Downie - the performer.
Gord Downie is a modern day musical Charlie Chaplin. His suit and hat even resembles the iconic clothing of the once larger than life comedian, long forgotten now in a 3D, high-res, HDMI universe. It seems that Gord Downie embraces the role every evening, and this was no exception. He swam to shore during New Orleans is Sinking and he paddled along in his canoe through the frozen food section onPoets. He went duck hunting during My Music at Work, and proceeded to box with the microphone throughout the night. Some time later, he charmed the microphone back to life, like an ancient Hindu snake handler, while the crowd loved every single moment of it.
At the beginning of Courage he was stunned. He paused as though he discovered that there was an audience that suddenly appeared before him for the very first time. He cried “Ha. Where did you come from?” He also didn’t seem to like the colours he saw in the distance because he proceeded to paint them with his microphone, dipping it time and time again into his imaginary magical paint can. Near the end of the Courage he tried desperately to get the audience to be quiet so they wouldn’t frighten “him”. He insisted that “he” really needed courage but it was not to be. “F*ck! He’s gone to Brockville. You know how hard it was to get him here. Thank you.”
The treat of the night was the duet and special stage appearance of Sarah Harmer. She accompanied the Hip sang on The Lookaheadand Now For Plan A. (If you haven’t seen the Mariachi video for The Lookahead, you are missing a great cinematic experience). What was most striking about this evening was the genuine warmth Canadian musicians hold for each other. It was very special to behold. The Tragically Hip, the Arkells and Sarah Harmer seemed like kindred spirits or members of one large musical family.
The show ended the way it began; with much applause, sing-a-long, and perhaps a few pints of beer. We learned that Paul Langlois used to drive a cab in Kingston, but was not the inspiration for Locked in the Trunk of a Car. If the audience had it their way they would locked the HIP away for the night but that was not to be. All good things must all come to pass, and the music lovers who enjoying this freezing February night, shuffled away, and returned to their homes.