Concert review: Tragically Hip grab you, don’t let go
Jeff SpevakStaff music critic
(March 9, 2007) â€”
A rock band ripping on all cylinders in front of a beered-up crowd is an awesome sight. You’re not a spectator, you’re a participant. It’s like feeling the engines at Daytona, as hands-on as dissecting your first worm in biology class. It’s visceral.
That was the Tragically Hip on Thursday night, as the tall, multi-paned windows of the Harro East Ballroom frosted over with the breath of a sold-out crowd of 1,100. There was no showing of hands, but judging by the unusually high number of hockey jerseys, much of the crowd was likely Canadian, having made the trip here to get an intimate look at their fellow countrymen, who are a much bigger band on the other side of the lake.
Opening with “End of the Rink,” from their excellent new album World Container, every aspect of why the Tragically Hip remain one of the finest live bands touring after more than two decades was evident. It is loud: perhaps too loud for the room on this night, but as the night soars on, your ears grow comfortably numb, and the beer cups seem to get smaller with each round. The Hip is a basic, five-piece rock band, but it never resorts to tricks or gimmicks to augment its sound. It can groove, or lend “The Kids Don’t Get It” a circus-monkey parade beat. It’s like watching one of those clocks in the public square of a German town, with every piece always whirring and spinning, never pausing.
Each piece has been in place for virtually the entire life of the band, and they all look untouched by the journey: guitarists Rob Baker and Paul Langlois, bassist Gord Sinclair, drummer Johnny Fay. But the piece that refuses to let go of you is Gordon Downie, who is as interesting to watch as any front man in rock today. You think of R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, with all of the posturing and dramatic cocking of the head. Or Coldplay’s Chris Martin, with all of that leaping about.
But no one is more manic, or more eccentric, than Downie. He looked like a beatnik in his black outfit, prancing, flipping the microphone about, uttering non sequiturs, dancing as though tuning in frequencies from another planet. “I remember you,” he exclaimed after reciting a handful of names. “That’s why I dance, to forget.”
With the soaring “Grace, Too,” the Hip was as good as it would get this night. A black bra was flung to the stage, and Downie snagged it and stared at it lovingly, as though this was the reason they had chosen to become rock stars. He stuffed it under his shirt for a few moments, then pranced about the stage, waving it in the air as though he were wrapped up in a private pagan lap dance.
“Sometimes when a bra comes up onstage,” he said after the song, “I think to myself, ‘We ought to do a couple more.’ “JSPEVAK@DemocratandChronicle.com