Published Jul 11, 2015It's been over three decades since their formation, but the Tragically Hip remain one of Canada's most beloved rock bands.
Hours before the Kingston-bred quintet took Festival d'été's Loto-Québec Stage, fans and families alike were being stalled outside the general admission gates to get into the festival grounds. Granted, a number of pass holders were probably there seeking shelter from Keith Urban and his posse, who were taking the main stage on the Plains of Abraham around the same time as the Hip, but judging by the number of over-washed band t-shirts from tours past and Canadian flags wrapped around the shoulders of 40-something adults, the Tragically Hip's Friday night set (July 10) was clearly one of the most anticipated of the 11-day festival.
Following a full day spent soaking in the artificial sounds of the Full Flex Express, it was refreshing to hear the Hip's amplifiers hum to life as they took their spots on stage in front of a crowd wholeheartedly chanting their name.
Starting out their show with "Grace, Too," Gord Downie and company delivered a short set of hits from across their catalogue, including "Music At Work," "Ahead By a Century" and "New Orleans is Sinking." After years spent on the road, performing the Hip's singles is probably pure muscle memory for the frontman, but it was amazing to watch him weave his words in and out of the songs' usual rhythms, toying with the audience's recollections of his anthemic verses and choruses, and using his downtime in between to cast fictional rods into the crowd and reel them in even deeper.
The band have been touring behind their 1992 classic, Fully Completely, in full as of late, and this show was no different. After an ambient interlude in which the album's art slowly came into focus on a set of sweeping curtains, the band kicked into "Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)" to some of the biggest cheers of the night. From then on, the band switched into another gear entirely, delivering their driving FM radio staples like "Looking for a Place to Happen" and "Fifty-Mission Cap" with aplomb, and although the album's less radio-friendly numbers fell on deaf ears at times, it was easy to see the mostly middle-aged crowd transported to a time not too long ago when a copy of the LP was the perfect companion for a casual drive, cottage party or Friday with friends, and realize that those times aren't actually as far away as they seem.