Thursday, July 12, 2007
General Motors Place
Vancouver, BC Canada
***Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
Tragically Hip is, was, and always will be “Canada’s Band.” There have been a few attempts to usurp the throne along the way—Barenaked Ladies and Nickelback to name two—but there seems to be a certain infallibility to the Kingston, Ontario natives that supersedes even their least ambitious work. After a pair of largely forgettable releases in a row, last year’s WORLD CONTAINER is a welcome return to the band’s more upbeat and accessible side that made them a staple of every Canuck’s CD collection between 1989 and 1998. The nearly-flawless FULLY COMPLETELY remains Tragically Hip’s creative and commercial highwater-mark but with UP TO HERE, DAY FOR NIGHT, ROAD APPLES and TROUBLE AT THE HENHOUSE in their twenty-year musical gauntlet, as well, it is easy to see what has granted the band such an enduring career.
As a live act, Tragically Hip is consistently entertaining. Vocalist Gordon Downie’s spastic movements, quirky demeanour and impromptu ad-libs during the songs make him the focal point but the rest of the band—guitarists Rob Baker and Paul Langlois, along with bassist Gord Sinclair and drummer Johnny Fay—are so incredibly tight as a unit that even the ever-changing setlist from night to night make it seem as if they know exactly where each other is going next. Downie’s lyrics are as poetic as anything Bob Dylan ever did but, like Gordon Lightfoot and Stompin’ Tom Connors, his words form slices of Canadiana that tell a story and can make even the most unpatriotic citizen feel the urge to wave the maple leaf on high. And so did about ten thousand spirited Hip fans packed into General Motors Place—home of the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks—taking in another amazing show hosted by “Canada’s Band.”
Because Tragically Hip change their setlist from show to show, it is always a treat for fans that are kept guessing at what surprises lie around the corner. With a surprisingly high number of tracks (seven) drawn from WORLD CONTAINER, more than a few people could be seen making bathroom runs (“The Kids Don’t Get It” is one of the band’s worst songs ever) and kicking off the encore with “The Drop-Off” seemed like an odd choice, as well. However, the title track, “Yer Not The Ocean” (an ode to Lake Ontario), “In View” (the band’s best song of the millennium) and “The Lonely End of The Rink” are solid numbers that fit nicely into the setlist. Thankfully, 2004’s dreary IN BETWEEN EVOLUTION was completely ignored, 2002’s equally dismal IN VIOLET LIGHT saw only “It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken” featured and the infectious title track from 2000’s MUSIC @ WORK rounded out the leaner years of the band’s career. The hit factor was on overdrive, though, as “Blow At High Dough,” “Fireworks,” “Springtime In Vienna,” “Ahead By A Century” and others nearly shook the roof off GM Place. Rob Baker’s searing leads on “New Orleans Is Sinking” and the one-two punch of the Gord Sinclair/Johnny Fay rhythm section on “Courage” displayed Tragically Hip’s heavier side while the tranquil “Bobcaygeon,” “Long Time Running” and “Ahead By A Century” were arguably superior to their studio counterparts and positively spellbinding live. The band drifted into an extended jam on “At The Hundredth Meridian” that left Gordon Downie doing donuts on his mike stand and miming a lost tourist with a map. At other times, Downie hammered wildly on an invisible typewriter during “My Music At Work” and later pretended to impale himself through the heart with his microphone before enlisting and thanking a woman in the front row who “pulled” it out for him. The singer’s simian-like leaps during “Grace, Too” and other bizarre but theatrical actions—not to mention the uncanny ability to secrete endless buckets of sweat—really make it difficult to look away.
The Lonely End of The Rink
New Orleans Is Sinking
My Music At Work
It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken
Ahead By A Century
Yer Not The Ocean
Long Time Running
Springtime In Vienna
At The Hundredth Meridian
The Kids Don’t Get It
Blow At High Dough
Concluding their nearly two-hour set with “Fireworks,” a few favourites were sadly absent—what, no “So Hard Done By,” “Locked In The Trunk of A Car,” “Twist My Arm,” “Looking For A Place To Happen” or “Cordelia”?!?—but overall, Tragically Hip came, saw and conquered once again. Having missed them in November 2006 when the band impressively sold-out four consecutive nights at the 900-capacity Commodore Ballroom, this was my first time seeing them live since the DAY FOR NIGHT tour in 1995 (February 18th to be exact) and hearing the later-period songs live was a nice treat. In their twentieth year as a recording band, it seems Tragically Hip still retain their place upon the throne as “Canada’s Band” and with no successors currently in sight, their reign continues.
***Thanks to Kelli from Live Nation for the press pass.
Tragically Hip—Official Site