Hip-notic performance, without hype

Hip-notic performance, without hype
Tragically Hip delivers, as always, with oddball antics, diverse playlist

Sandra Sperounes, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Monday, January 15, 2007
Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip perform Sunday at Rexall Place.
Where: Rexall Place
Opening act: The Sadies

They’re not the flashiest performers. Nor do they rely on costly gimmicks such as pyrotechnics or elaborate stage sets.Yet, after more than two decades, watching Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip rip through their repertoire of Canadian classics never seems to get old.For starters, even with the advent of the Internet, you never quite know which of their 100-plus songs they’re going to pull out of their pockets.New Orleans Is Sinking? Ahead By A Century? Poets? Fiddler’s Green?Yup, The Hip played all four nuggets — each accompanied by the smell of weed wafting through Rexall Place on Sunday night.(You could sort of judge the crowd’s faves by when they lit up their joints. Sadly, none of the group’s newest batch of songs, from 2006’s World Container, seemed to, uh, ignite such passion. At least not in section 101.)Photograph by : Greg Southam, The JournalThen, there’s good ol’ Downie, the nerdiest — and least self-conscious — of frontmen.Not only does he shake, shimmy, jump and pirouette like one of the unco-ordinated dancers in Fatboy Slim’s Praise You video, he rants and screeches like a mad man trying to purge his demons.”Where do you think you’re going? Who do you think you’re talking to?” he demanded after kicking and hip-checking his microphone stand during a fast, frenetic rendition of another oldie, At the Hundredth Meredian.No wonder the Hip don’t need to resort to using flashpots or dancers. (They only used lights and a few white backdrops, which doubled as video screens for their blurry images of trees, cars and water.)No wonder guitarists Rob Baker, Paul Langlois and bassist Gord Sinclair don’t really need to do much more than play their instruments and bob their heads.Downie’s endearing antics are enough for all of them.He seemed even more animated than usual on Sunday — perhaps rejuvenated by World Container, the group’s best album in years.The Kingston five started off their set with The Lonely End of The Rink — an appropriate choice for a hockey arena — featuring dance-rock rhythms and a crazy reggae beat.”You and me,” Downie bellowed, as 11,500 yous jumped to their feet.New Orleans Is Sinking was next — including a few tacit barbs leveled at George W. Bush’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina — followed by Grace, Too, a sombre, muted U2-ish number with an extended extro. Then came another downbeat song, It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken, and another new track, The Drop Off, with a wave of moody guitars and Downie pretending to swim.While water is obviously one of his favourite themes — most of his lyrics seem to reference skating, swimming, sailing or sinking — The Hip’s choice of opening act is never as transparent.Downie and his pals prefer to pick offbeat artists rather than the latest up ‘n’ coming act on Universal.A few years ago, Chris Brown and Kate Fenner opened for the Kingston rockers. This time, The Hip brought The Sadies on tour with them.The Toronto foursome usually play smaller venues such as New City or The Sidetrack, but they’re such impeccable musicians, they made the leap to Rexall with great ease.Think of them as Hawaii Five-O meets the Wild West, fronted by two brothers who look like undertakers from the 1800s.Dallas Good even sounded like one at times, using his deep, sinister, son-of-Johnny Cash voice to rattle our little bones.ssperounes@thejournal.canwest.com