Monday, July 20, 2015
TRAGICALLY HIP JULY 17TH
Now in the midst of their "Fully and Completely Tour", the Hip hit the Bell Stage powerfully with their engine room, rhythm section Johnny Fay and Gord Sinclair, kicking off "Grace, Too". This would serve to be the first shot across the bow, signalling an exceptional night of live music for those that braved the weather. Slightly altering the opening line, the other Gord (Downie) leaned into his mic and bellowed:
He said I'm tragically HIP!!!!/
Come on just let's go...
With his first utterance, there crowd erupted, remaining statically charged as the silver penned devil did his level best to bring exaggerated pantomime into the proceedings, mugging wildly, striking poses and delivering his literate musings with a wink. Sheets of precipitation thoroughly soaked everyone, yet spirits remained high. Despite looking like a thrift-shop version of John Steed, I was glad to have dragged along my brolly.
Rain fell in real time/rain fell through the night
Laying out the appetizers, while getting sounds balanced onstage, the other highlights in the first mini-set were "Ahead by a Century" and the well timed "New Orleans is Sinking", both of which became mass sing-alongs. Downie was particularly animated in the vocal department, elongating certain phrases with strangled screams that went off script from the arrangements occasionally. There was a method to his madness, as all eyes were riveted on the frontman, leaving the band to create the soundscape. Duly warmed up, there was a very quick break while the musicians transitioned to the main course for the evening, playing their third album (Fully Completely) in its entirety.
Looking for a place to happen...
When the "Gord is Lord" tag first cropped up amongst fans of the Hip as a descriptor for the lead singer, 99.9 percent of that was attributed to his very special way with words. The lyrical content of Fully Completely is rich in imagination, historical reference and abstract thought at its finest. Wrongly convicted men mingle with mythical serial killers who roam free. Woven into this tapestry are tales that incorporate fact, fiction and shadowy areas in between.
Their performance was incandescent, instantly conjuring memories of that period for me (late 1992)...friends, parties, adventures all came crashing through the time barrier, forming perfect holograms. Every selection on this perfect disc was delivered with passion and swept the crowd into a rapturous mood. Delicate guitar figures ("Pigeon Camera") mixed with terrific, straight ahead rock ("Looking for a Place to Happen") and the intensity continued to build with every song. Bobby Baker took a few inspired, extended solos while smiling at Downie's antics. Celebrating the over 60 year old Bill Barilko OT goal as if it was happening at that moment brought him back to life momentarily in the midst of a waterlogged concert site. "Wheat Kings" was enhanced by a mass chorus of voices that lifted this plaintiff, acoustic ballad to anthemic heights. Not a beat missed, nor a note wasted, "Eldorado" wound up on an incredible sonic high.
Thanking the rain and the die-hards who stayed throughout the deluge, Gord reminded everyone that they weren't finished yet. The encore was almost anticlimactic, considering the sheer emotional impact of getting our collective heads ripped open by such a stellar show. I have seen these guys multiple times, though this was by far the best experience.
Ahead by a Century
New Orleans Is Sinking
Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)
Looking for a Place to Happen
At the Hundredth Meridian
Locked in the Trunk of a Car
We'll Go Too
My Music at Work
Long Time Running
Blow at High Dough