When most hipsters were not even to their mothers’ waists, The Tragically Hip were rapidly becoming one of Canada’s most popular rock acts. Now, almost 20 years later, they tread — but not lightly! — on the Barrymore Theatre’s stage on Tuesday night.
The music was everything one would expect — a smattering of popular tunes (“Bobcaygeon,” “Ahead by a Century,” “New Orleans Is Sinking”), new fare (“World Container”) and even a Beatles cover (“Come Together”). Solid electric guitar work from glossy-haired Rob Baker took care of stage-left, while moments of shaky background vocals from Paul Langlois lingered on stage-right. While this is truly a band to be heard, it was Gordon Downie’s showmanship that stole all glances.
Why? Because Gordon Downie is fucking crazy. Aside from growling a good portion of his vocals, when he was not plucking the old acoustic, he was doing God-knows-what: writhing suggestively in his clingy, wet button-down; shaking his ass and twirling around; getting attacked by the microphone-snake and doing all sorts of other pantomiming that would have Jerry Fallwell rolling in his grave.
Between songs, Downie spewed rhetoric like an emotionally unstable drill sergeant. “Am I lovesick? Do I look lovesick?” he begged before “Love(sic).” Men looked at each another in confusion, while ladies searched their purses for remedies. The only thing to possibly distract the crowd from Downie’s commanding presence was Gord Sinclair’s Blue Steel.
Even with Downie’s contorted face and crazed, persistent yelps of “Work!” during “My Music At Work,” fans still chanted “Hip! Hip! Hip!” for more of that psycho swagger. While exiting the Barrymore, positive feedback made its way past swollen eardrums — the crowd was wowed. Hooray!