Air Canada Centre, Toronto – February 8, 2007
By SHERRI WOOD – Sun Media
TORONTO – Last night on SUN TV’s Canoe Live I said I was surprised Torontonians are still into The Tragically Hip.
After last night’s Hip show at the Air Canada Centre, I’m decidedly eating my words.
Seems the good ol’ Canadian boys are still solid live performers after 20 years of bandhood — even indoors at the cavernous ACC in the middle of February.
There was never any doubt Gord Downie et al could impress at any outdoor, grassy-knoll, Canada Day affair. But it was questionable whether their brand of patriotic, homegrown beer rock could translate well in an urban arena.
Yet, they pulled it off.
The Kingston-born quintet (fronted by Downie and rounded out by guitarists Paul Langlois and Rob Baker, bassist Gord Sinclair and drummer Johnny Fay) gave the approximately 20,000 loyal fans a heady mix of old favourites and newbie material from their latest effort, World Container (which was produced by Canadian rock vet Bob Rock, and for which they received four Juno nominations this week).
Highlights included Bobcaygeon (which Downie dedicated to “the lovers” in the crowd), In View (the new album’s lead single), the ever-cheeky Poets, Courage, World Container and a long, jammy version of At The Hundredth Meridian, which included a brief jaunt into The Police’s Walking On The Moon.
A performance artist in his own right, it was Downie, mostly, who kept the machine afloat.
He said very little, but dressed all in black, the 43-year-old herked and jerked and writhed and wiggled around the stage with a mic stand in one hand and a white handkerchief in the other.
His enthusiasm was always met with matching enthusiasm from the crowd, who sang along faithfully to familiar material, even when Downie strayed from familiar lyrical rhythms (most noticeably during Ahead By A Century).
Ballads, including Long Time Running and Fiddler’s Green, got a classic lighters-in-the-air tribute — a welcome reprieve from the waving sea of dull, blue-glowing cellphones that usually takes over at concerts these days.
The Tragically Hip prove time and time again that they can please a crowd — especially a Canadian crowd.
Really, they’re the comfort food of rock, firmly rooted in our national identity, and it’s hard not to get into their bluesy brand of mashed potatoes.
Watch for their performance at this year’s Juno Awards, taking place in Saskatoon on April 1.