It was a night for tears and laughter, and a lot of reflection—upon what it means to be a rock band, how it feels to be staring down death, and why there’s so much pride to be taken in being Canadian. Below, watch and/or listen to the entire final concert from August 20 in Kingston, Ontario.
BY BLURT STAFF
For the final show of their Man Machine Poem tour—and quite possibly their final show, period, as vocalist Gord Downie had announced in May that he had terminal brain cancer—the Tragically Hip chose to connect with an entire nation and not simply the 20,000+ audience in their Kingston, Ontario, hometown. The concert was broadcast live by Canada Broadcasting Corporation to venues across the country, leading to a few million virtual attendees taking in Downie’s presumed final bow, and reveling in the collective glory of what has become perhaps the most beloved Canadian band in history.
Fellow countrymen Nickelback, who have sold gazillions more than the Tragically Hip, only wish they could get a fraction of this kind of respect. Not that the Hip have not sold a few records in their day.
The HDTV webcast has already been circulated extensively around the world via a very devoted Hip fanbase, and now the good folks at Big O zine have posted it for free MP3 download, along with relevant artwork.
BLURT’s own editor, Fred Mills, happened to be vacationing in Canada when the tour was concluding, and while he was not able to catch any of the farewell concerts, he says that on more than one occasion he encountered fans who expressed their deep devotion to the band. “Even some folks who seemed to be more diehard punk or indie types seemed to feel like this was a momentous moment—a ‘Last Waltz’ of sorts for the band and its fanbase,” noted Mills. “Given Downie’s medical status it was impossible not to be moved, almost to tears, while grasping that, for so many Canadians, this was their U2, their R.E.M., their Midnight Oil that they were saying goodbye to.
“I should add that when I was in the airport preparing for my flight back to the US, I picked up a newsstand copy of national magazine Maclean’s, kind of a cross between Time and USA Today, and it was a double issue with something like 25 pages devoted to the Hip, its history, its fans and admirers, and that final concert in Kingston. Reading that, I began to get a sense of just how important this group was to Canadians, something that I’d not quite figured out until now. In the Hip, fans saw a group of musicians who celebrated their very Canadian-ness, rather than trying to be just another big player on the global music scene.
“It’s hard to say goodbye to a band you love. Imagine how hard it is to say goodbye to that band when you know there’s no chance—ever—of one of those reunions we’ve come to take for granted.”
JOSEPH BOYDEN’S SEVEN LOVE SONGS FOR GORD DOWNIE: Award-winning author Joseph Boyden’s emotional reflection on his relationship with The Hip’s Gord Downie—and ours, too.—Joseph Boyden and Amanda Boyden
HOW WE WILL MISS GORD DOWNIE AND THE TRAGICALLY HIP: What it means to the Hip — and to their fans — to tour and wave goodbye. —Michael Barclay
HERE’S HOW CANADA WATCHED THE TRAGICALLY HIP: A sold-out concert in Kingston, but viewing parties from coast to coast — and beyond. —Aaron Hutchins
ON THE TRAGICALLY HIP’S LAST STOP: ‘THIS IS CARPE DIEM.’ Michael Barclay on the rock’n’roll spectacle of the Man Machine Poem tour. —Michael Barclay
THE AMERICAN FANS WHO WATCHED THE TRAGICALLY HIP’S LAST EXIT: It wasn’t only Canadians who flocked to Kingston, Ont., for the Tragically Hip’s final concert. —Michael Barclay
THE TRAGICALLY HIP’S LAST SONG RINGS OUT ACROSS CANADA: Thousands of fans from Halifax to Vancouver sang the Tragically Hip’s last song, ‘Ahead By A Century.’
As the CBC noted in its coverage of the concert, “Downie thanked fans for supporting the band during what could be its final tour. ‘On behalf of the boys and the men and women of our crew, thank you for a great tour and a great show,’ Downie said. ‘I really enjoyed the hell out of it. Thank you, thank you people for keeping me pushing.’”
Keep pushing, indeed. Godspeed, Mr. Downie. You have been an inspiration in so many ways.
Gord Downie – vocals
Paul Langlois – guitar
Rob Baker – guitar
Gord Sinclair – bass
Johnny Fay- drums
Bonus: CBC Music presents The Tragically Hip: A National Celebration Post-Show [Interview]