Ten Years Later: 1999-02-22 – Toronto, ON (Air Canada Centre)

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since The Hip took the stage at the Air Canada Centre as the first* act to rock the hanger.

Here’s what Jam! Canoe had to say about the show:

The Tragically Hip strikes an inaugural chord with fans at The Hangar

Hockey, hoops and now The Hip.

The new Air Canada Centre, christened over the weekend with its first hockey and basketball games, saw its inaugural rock concert last night as Canada’s biggest band, The Tragically Hip, made a triumphant return to T.O. to play the first of two, back-to-back, sold-out shows.

Led by the always entertaining Gord Downie, the Kingston, Ont., fivesome took the stage in their typical low-key fashion before 20,000 nonetheless ecstatic fans at the swanky, $265-million sports and entertainment venue.

“Hey, guess it’s time for Something On,” said Downie, as he launched his band into the first song of the night from their latest album, Phantom Power.

But the audience, albeit immediately on their feet, didn’t really get going until Downie, equal parts vaudeville performer and English professor, introduced the follow-up song, 50 Mission Cap.

As The Hip performed their well-known anthem about Leafs legend Bill Barilko, they shone their stage lights on the fans on the floor below who roared their approval and basically went nuts.

Unfortunately, the group lost a bit of that momentum during the next two draggy numbers before cranking up the energy again with Courage, which prompted the first sing-and-clap-along of the night, and the stellar Poets featuring the fine guitar work of Bobby Baker.

The Hip’s stage was supposed to resemble an old theatre with red velvet drapes, gold tassles and an impressive chandelier — appropriate for The Phantom Of The Opera — but the blue sky backdrop was somewhat distracting in terms of that concept. Still, the backdrop came in pretty handy during the projection of trippy coloured cells during Courage.

Opening for The Hip were Toronto’s own pop-rockers, By Divine Right, whose excellent sophomore album, Bless This Mess, is in stores today.

BDR’s singer-guitarist Jose Contreras, drummer Mark Goldstein, bassist Brendan Canning and guitarist-keyboardist Leslie Feist had the right idea in terms of getting people’s attention as they straggled into the venue before The Hip went on. The quartet took the stage in brightly coloured pajamas and made it all seem appropriate.

“Hello Air Canada Centre!” yelled Contreras, who slightly recalled the Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli in looks, mannerisms and voice.

Reviewers, meanwhile, were put in the top rows of the venue’s platinum level, which is closest to the floor, and with both Contreras and Downie’s vocals sounding pretty muddy at times, you can bet there were some sound problems way up above in the nosebleed section.

What do you expect from a venue with a tin roof?

Still, with its wider seats, generous leg room, lower ceiling, acoustic panels and expansive hallways, the ACC is obviously trying to offer a more comfortable and enjoyable concert-going experience than Maple Leaf Gardens.

Whether it’s going to be sonically superior will take a few more concerts to figure out.

Naturally, a lot depends upon the band’s P.A. system and in the case of The Hip, they certainly try to look after their audiences.

The same can be said of The Rolling Stones who pull into the ACC on Thursday night with their No Security tour.

And if you want to hear what it sounded like, here’s the show in FLAC. Thanks to Dreyfuss aka Steve Stroud for taping and sharing.

Right click and save each linked FLAC file.

Disc 1
01. Something On
02. Fifty Mission Cap
03. Giftshop
04. Membership
05. Courage
06. Poets
07. Cordelia
08. Vapour Trails
09. Ahead By A Century
10. Lionized
11. Bobcaygeon
12. Nautical Disaster
13. Springtime In Vienna
14. Fireworks
15. Blow At High Dough

Disc 2
01. Escape Is At Hand For The Travellin’ Man
02. At The Hundredth Meridian
03. First Encore
04. Save The Planet
05. Scared
06. Fire In The Hole
07. Second Encore
08. Grace, Too
09. The Rules
10. New Orleans Is Sinking

FLAC Fingerprint
Text File

* Some will claim that By Divine Right – the nights opening act – were the “first” but come on… people were there to see The Hip.