Review: on 2007-07-07 – Victoria, BC

Canadian rock from the Hip
Canadian rock from the Hip
Mike Devlin, Times Colonist
Published: Monday, January 08, 2007
What: The Tragically Hip, with the Sadies
Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre
When: Last night
Stars: 4 1/2 (out of five)
A be-hatted Gord Downie, dressed snappily and sporting black on black. was up to his old tricks early.
On the sold-out opening date of his band’s 21-date national tour, which began yesterday in Victoria with the first of two stops, new lyrics presented themselves seemingly on the spot. Downie shook his leg in James Brown-ian fashion. The frontman’s spine cracked like a whip. And his remarkably adept bandmates punched a hole in the roof of the Save-on-Foods Memorial with sinewy, rugged barroom rock.
It was a thing to behold — and it all came just three songs in during a revelatory set that left no question as to the continued relevance of Canada’s best rock band, the Tragically Hip.
The Hip’s first local show in three years hit a high point during the night’s second song, New Orleans is Sinking, which the Kingston. Ont.-bred quintet transformed from its slow-paced 1989 version into a searing foot-stomper fit for radio in the here and now. Downie, a master of improvisation, saw fit to change the tune’s famous “Gordie baby” lyric to “Georgie Baby,” a overt reference to U.S. President George W. Bush. Given that some radio stations stopped playing the song during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it was not-so-veiled reply from a band that often takes the road less travelled.
Skeptics of the band saddled with opinions like “I used to like them when they were good” or “I haven’t listed to them in a decade” would have been grudgingly impressed. But this show was not for them. Sure, Downie doesn’t talk mid-song as much as he used to, plus there’s a reliance on new material, as there should be.
This two-hour church service was a testimonial by the band for its diehard fans.
Don’t like the Hip? The band, or its supporters, don’t appear to care. You’re either on the bus or off it at this point, 20 years on, and judging by the cult-like adoration the band was greeted with — fully and completely justified, by the way — jaded types are worse off for not being hip to the Hip. Early on, new songs worked best. The Drop-Off was a ear-shredding monster, and In View — the uber-catchy hit from the band’s 11th and latest studio effort, World Container — was even better than its impeccable studio version. A mid-set The Kids Don’t Get It proved the band hasn’t forgotten its hard rock roots, either.
But as good as the new recording is, fans came to hear the band’s vast array of classics, which the band balanced nicely with World Container material.
True to form, there were highlights from each respective era.
Fully Completely, Fiddler’s Green, and Blow at High Dough represented the old-school, as did At the Hundredth Meridian, at which point Downie began kicking the sky. But it was a tender ballad, Wheat Kings, from 1991’s Road Apples, which gave the evening some quiet resolve.
“Anyone here go to trial for a crime they didn’t commit?” Downie asked. referencing the song’s real-life anti-hero, David Milgaard, who served 20 years for a murder he didn’t commit.
“Didn’t think so.”
Mid-career standouts like Bobcaygeon, Poets, and Springtime in Vienna — which saw Downie smoking the first of many imaginary cigarettes on the night — were exemplary, but the bass-heavy and menacing Grace, Too (complete with an outer monologue from Downie, when he wasn’t sparing with his microphone), that was best.
The sound was mixed far too loud, and Downie called the venue Memorial Arena on a number of occasions, (dude, that’s so 2005) but that can be forgiven. By the end of his band’s 22-song set, there was very little to bitch about.
Set list:
1. Lonely End of the Rink
2. New Orleans is Sinking
3. Fully Completely
4. Lake Fever
5. The Drop-Off
6. Bobcaygeon
7. In View
8. Poets
9. Fiddler’s Green
10. World Container
11. Springtime in Vienna
12. A the Hundredth Meridian
13. Ahead By a Century
14. The Kids Don’t Get it
15. Grace, Too
16. Wheat Kings
17. Yer Not the Ocean
18. Music at Work
19. Blow at High Dough
20. Queen Bitch (David Bowie cover)
21. Family Band
22. Little Bones