Review: Buffalo News on 1989-06-08 – Buffalo, NY

Hipbaser “jay” just posted this interesting review from 1989.

“Ran across this while trying to track down the “mystery” 1989 show at the Spectrum in Toronto.

I’ve yet to see this show mentioned on any Hip-related site so it is interesting to point out that Wednesday, June 7, 1989, the Hip touched down in the US in good ole’ Buffalo, NY.

248 Allen St
Buffalo, NY 14201

I paid $3 to get this and I’m sure it’s illegal to share but what the heck… Enjoy!

News Library


Published on June 8, 1989

News Contributing Reviewer
© The Buffalo News Inc.


Watching a band perform for the very first time is both exciting and challenging. Wednesday night at Nietzsche’s, Toronto’s The Tragically Hip played the first American date on a tour that will last two months. Although they have a Canadian EP release and finished recording their American debut album in February of this year, few Americans have heard their music.

Over in Great Britain, Melody Maker called them “a rare discovery” describing them as “preposterous, stroppy, ugly, damn near ecstatic” and imploring their British readers to “bring them over here and we’ll have a ball which won’t bounce straight.”

There is no doubt that they are a quirky band exemplified by their material and the antics of their lead singer Gordon Downie. His stage demeanor falls between Joe Cocker’s spastic elbow flailing and Mick Jagger’s cock of the yard strutting. He talks directly and intimately to the audience — like a hoser sharing a couple of beers with his buddies.

Before launching into “Highway Girl,” he jerked an explanation in the audience’s direction saying the song was “about a hitchhiker.” He had a story for every song and they all seemed to pop into his mind as he uttered them. Before playing “All-Canadian Surf Club,” he told about the band playing a rowdy gig in Edmonton the night the Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky to the L.A. Kings — both the music and the band had to take the abuse for the defection of the Edmonton franchise player.

Unfortunately, for all the charm of Downie and the smoking good guitar playing of Robbie Baker, the band seemed to lack that certain undefinable spark that could launch them into stardom. Too frequently, they sound like a 1969 version of the Rolling Stones. They are a good bar band, but they need to play in large venues to get their act polished, honed and ready to roar up to an audience’s expectations.

They have an affinity for ’60s sounding songs. Dale Hawkings’ “Suzie Q.” was a high-powered rocker that had the crowd dancing and gave guitarist Baker an excellent chance to rip off a jangling solo. Downie’s gyrating and jumping about had him dripping in perspiration within minutes of his entrance.

Although most of their material is unfamiliar, their hard-driving sound isn’t. It is the kind of rock the Canadians have been enjoying in bars from Brantford to Mumford. They will be touring America until the end of July with the exception of one night in Toronto and several days in Canada to record their music video.

All the indicators are in place for this band to make it if they can just overcome their barroom roots and develop their repertoire for a large auditorium performance. Their new album, recorded in Memphis and due for an American release later this year, should go far in familiarizing Americans to The Tragically Hip’s potential for success.

Although I enjoyed the band very much, they need a long American tour to season them. Their music is very exciting but their overall performance style needs honing. Their original material is quirky enough to appeal to a wide spectrum of listeners and their high-energy stage act is bound to please live audiences.

As a hard-working lead singer, the sweat-soaked Downie takes a backseat to no-one. The Tragically Hip’s recorded music is not as strong as their live concerts, which are ultimately high-powered and hard-rocking.

The end of the year will be a good indicator whether the Toronto band will be able break into the American music market and stardom.”