Hugh’s Review: 2007-07-01 – Lewiston, NY

Seeing my first show at the Artpark, I expected nothing less than a great Canada Day performance from The Hip. Thankfully again, I got what I expected. Avid fans from the Toronto/Hamilton/Buffalo area were whipped into a frenzy by Gord Downie and his band mates. From the start the boys were right on, playing many Hip favorites in a set list punctuated with songs from their latest release, World Container.

Near the beginning of the show Gord D. noted that we were in the Niagara Falls region. He then made a prophetic statement. Gord said, “Accidents causing injury or death are usually the result of showing off”. After saying that, the band launched into Daredevil. Downie was full of energy, (as he usually is), dancing and acting out. He raged back and forth across the stage belting out his lyrics while Robbie Baker and Paul Langois reproduced that wonderfully layered dual guitar sound. Johnny Fay played loud and hard on his stripped down Yamaha drum set as Gord S. plucked his bass, moving and dancing in his own unique style.

Some highlights of the show included Gord D. hiding behind his playback monitor as if he were in a fox hole in a war zone. He would grab an imaginary grenade, pull the pin with his teeth and toss it into the crowd. Then Gord would duck down behind his monitor as it exploded. During Locked in the Trunck of a Car, G.D. was dancing and jumping about. At one point Gord lept into the air using his mikestand as a pole vault. He fell to the ground as the mikestand snapped in half. He gave his mangled mikestand to a mom sitting right next to me who was with her 14 y.o. son attending his first Hip show. As the final song of the main set began to play, Billy Ray brought Gord another mikestand. Gord quickly dismantled it and gave another fan an unusual souvenier. Keeping the top half of the stand, Gord marched back and forth twriling it like a baton in his right hand. Now Gord was a “drum major” leading the marching band in a parade.

As the last song began to end, Gord prepared to “hang” himself with the cord from his mike. Wrapping it around his neck, he stood on his tippy-toes waving goodbye to everyone. The song ended and Gord collapsed to the stage, his dirty deed complete. After a three song encore, we were sent home happy and exhausted as Gord thanked everyone for celebrating Canada Day with The Hip.

Hugh’s Review: 2007-04-14 – Cleveland, OH

It seems I see some of the best Hip performances in Cleveland. This show was no exception. The sold out HOB was packed with a large contingent of Buffalo Hip fans. This was a high energy crowd feeding of the Hip’s excellent sound. At one point during the show Gord stated, “I am the god of electricity and these are my minions”, pointing to all of us. Gord and the band led us on a wonderful musical journey. I thought it was one of the best set lists of the World Container tour with an excellent mix of old and new songs.

One surprise was a new lead in to Daredevil. Instead of Hiccups, “Burn on Big River” by Randy Nueman was played. Burn on Big River and Chagrin Falls were excellent and both were very appropriate with all of the Ohio references. During the 100th Meridian jam, Gord unplugged his mike from the cord and threw the mike into the crowd. A woman in the front row made a nice one handed grab and caught it. She held it in her fist and pumped it in the air. She eventually gave it back. This was followed by Last of the Unplucked Gems. A nice choice to pull out of the large music catalogue that The Hip posses.

I hated to see the evening end because I had so much fun at the show, but the encore set was fantastic. Can I say Emperor F**king Penguin! Hello?! Then that great song was followed by the band’s cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I love that song and The Hip played it with great energy and bravado. The show ended with Fully, Completely. Before Gord left the stage, he ended the show as he did the other nights. He knelt down and ground the mike into the stage floor. He was snuffing the mike out like a smoker who was extinguishing his finished cigarette.

I had the best time these last 3 days going to 3 show in a row. I must say I’m exhausted, worn out and very happy. The Hip entertained me with great songs and very few repeats in each set list. I enjoyed seeing my Hip Head friends who went to the shows with me. Being with others who enjoy the music as much as I do just makes things more fun. Carolyn and I want to give a special thank you to The Hip and their crew for letting us hang out with them. We really appreciate it.

Hugh’s Review: 2007-04-13 – Detroit, MI

We witnessed another good show at The Hip’s second night at the State Theater. The crowd was smaller than the band’s first sold out night, but there was a fever pitch in the air. For those of us who came to both shows, the set list varied nicely. Boots & Hearts, Dire Wolf, Puttin’ Down, Locked and Iggy Pop’s “Cold Metal” were some of my favorites from the night.

Wheat Kings was exceptionally good for two reasons. Robbie played most of the song with two guitars slung around him. The first he played slide guitar style, with his guitar held horizontally in front of him like many country & western guitar players do. Then he passed off that guitar and played the other as he normally does. At the end of the song Gord recited a new poem or lyrics that I am willing to bet shows up in some future Hip song. The ryhme and rythm really caught my attention.

Its hard for me to say which Detroit show was better. They each had their good qualities. If I had to pick one, I guess it would be tonight because all the guys seemed to be having so much fun playing together. During the phenomenal Iggy Pop cover, sweat was constantly dripping from the brim of Gord’s hat. They finished the night with Fire in the Hole. As the song neared the end, Gord began to knock the mikestand over then bring it back upright by stepping on the base before it hits the floor. Gord was doing this flawlessly, then suddenly tripped, falling flat on his back. Surprised but unfazed, Gord continued on without missing a beat.

Something new I noticed about how Gord ended each show in Detroit. He said his thank yous and good byes then took the mike and knelt down, driving it into the floor with a klunck and some finality. It probably means nothing, but I thought it was different.

We spoke with the band after the show and found out they weren’t leaving town until 3:00 am. They were heading back to the casino to kill some time. All the guys showed up except for Gord D. who wisely stayed back to rest his body and voice. We ended up in the casino bar watching a band perform a Mowtown Review / Morris Day & The Time impersonation. A large number of gamblers had gravitated to the source of the music. One patron passed out in his seat during the show. Many women were doing line dances to the old 80’s dance music. One woman got so into the music she gave the passed out gent a fully clothed lap dance without him even waking up. She was gyrating inches from his face
and he never budged or batted an eyelash. This spectical had myself and many others, including the band members, laughing in amazement at what was occuring.

It just happened to be the final song of the night for this cover band. When the music stopped the woman simply walked away. Within 30 seconds the drunk guy woke up because there was no longer any loud music playing. He was totally oblivious to missing out on a free erotic dance. With that we parted ways with a promise to follow the band to Cleveland.

Hugh’s Review: 2007-04-12 – Detroit, MI

The Hip played a high energy show to a sold out State Theater in Detroit. The crowd pulsed with every beat the band played. Gord D. gyrated across the stage and feed off the reaction he got from his singing and dancing. He kept wandering to stage left where the fans were particularly into Gord’s performance. They were singing along and reaching out to him.

I was so impressed with The Hip’s performance. Every member was showcasing the talents they posses. Gord D. brought us along on his roller coaster ride with great singing, dancing and his uncanny ability to act out his emotions. Rob was on fire with blazing solos. Downie announced during the show that Happy Birthday wishes go out to Robbie on this day. Gord also said Rob shared his birthday with David Cassidy. (I’m sure there was an inside joke there). Paul was solid with his own leads and backing vocals. Gord Sinclair was plucking his bass and getting some incredible twangs. He really sounded good. I was most impressed with Johnnie Fay. His drum play was unassuming, yet powerful at the same time. I think the Bob Rock influence on Johnnie’s playing is noticable. John told me himself after the show that he has found a new groove. He played his stripped down Yamaha drum set so loud, but with great ease.

The show had many highlights. The set list included nice suprizes such as Thugs and Long Time Running. During Family Band a crowd surfer made it over the barrier with his pants well below his bare ass. Gord S. and Robbie got a good laugh from that. Nautical Disaster was good with Gord paddling himself across the stage into the end speaker stack. During Springtime a bra was thrown and landed in front of Rob. Gord eventually found it and sniffed it warily. He began running back and forth across the stage waving it behind him. He eventually tossed it back into the crowd. He then casually walked over to Sinclair and wiped his brow with his white hanky. 100th Meridian was awesome with Gord boxing his mikestand and throwing it high into the air three times. It was bent and battered when he was done with it. He straightened it out and crouched down leaning against the base. He leaned back on the mikestand at a 45 degree angle. He was using it like a rocking chair. He put his hanky over his face and “fell asleep” while Robbie played esoteric riffs on his guitar. Gord began spinning with his blindfold over his face. He eventually jumped up and ranted about dreaming he was spinning.

During Fully, Completely Gord was twirling his mike and cord ala Roger Daltry style. He began twirling it horizontally, letting it wrap around his neck like a tetherball on a pole. The mike would strike his neck and he would reverse it the other way. He did it numerous times. He ended the song using his hanky like the tail on a rooster/peacock.

The encore was fantastic. During Don’t Wake Daddy, Gord and Paul sang different lyrics at the same time. Gord went over to Paul and stuck his mike in Paul’s ear and sung loudly while Paul sang his own lyrics. Gord was trying to mess up Paul. Paul was laughing, but kept his part straight. This was followed by Black Day in July. The song was great even though Gord had to read portions of the lyrics. The show ended with On the Verge. Johnnie increased the beat 10 times to end the song. He was flailing wildly and came to a sudden stop.

After the show we were invited to meet Robbie, Paul and John at the Greektown Casino for a few birthday drinks. We had a great time chatting with the guys. Paul told me how he became a band member. I knew some of the story already, but he gave me some great background on how things happened. I like all the guys, but Robbie has always been especially nice to me and my wife Carolyn. He spoke to everyone while playing video poker. Johnnie, Billy Ray, The Hip’s manager and Rick, the head of security, were hanging out too. Paul paid me a nice compliment and told me I was one of the most intense Hip fans he has met throughout his years of playing. He hoped my interest in the the band would continue. With experiences like this….you know it will.

Hugh’s Review: 2006-12-31 – Chicago, IL

In keeping with The Tragically Hip tradition, the band ushered in the new year with a concert at the Chicago HOB. TV cameras were mounted everywhere, with one camera on a large boom which swung out over the fans, to tape the performance for a live local broadcast. The Hip ripped through their first five songs as midnight approached. Gord D. was in fine form as the 100th Meridian began. He was singing and dancing around the stage using his red handkerchief as a tail. This must have been planned, but as the song reached the rant, the three TV broadcast hosts burst on stage to announce that midnight was upon us, stopping the song. The Hip appeared surprised/annoyed as they set down their instuments for the balloon drop and countdown. Hugs and handshakes were given as Gord sang Auld Lang Syne. After a few minutes the stage was cleared of balloons and TV hosts. Gord then launched back into the 100th Meridian rant as the band joined in along with him.

Near the middle of their set, The Hip kicked out some great energy with some of my favorite rockers. They played Kids Don’t Get It, followed by Grace Too and Yer Not the Ocean. At the end of Grace Too, Gord did a little James Brown tribute by dancing about wildy using some James Brown moves while screaming his name. Robbie Baker was awesome using his finger slide during his guitar lead on Blow at High Dough. He played on as Gord rode his motorcycle mikestand to finish out the song. I don’t know how good the CBS2 broadcast will be. I could see a playback monitor at the side of the stage from my front row spot. Many songs were not shown in their entirety as the broadcast cut to the TV hosts or went to commercial. Also, The Hip played about a half hour past the end of the broadcast. The Hip played close to an hour and forty-five minute set.

After the show my friend and fellow Hipbaser John Cage (Chris W) was able to get us into the HOB Foundation room which is a private bar for members only. We stayed for an hour and we were able to meet Paul, Gord Sinclair and Gord Downie. Gord S. said he had difficutly getting to Chicago because of a snowstorm in Kingston. We said hello to Paul and we were able to speak with Gord D. for about ten minutes. I have met him after shows before and he has been tired or subdued after his performance, but this night he was full of energy. Even though our conversation lasted for only a few minutes, we touched on many subjects. We talked about some of the lyrics on World Container and Carolyn and I told Gord we loved his “WHOA” ‘s on Kids Don’t Get It. He said they’re harder to do than it may appear. He said you can’t just throw one out there. You must put the right amount of emotional energy into it. We mentioned we noticed Gord’s James Brown tribute and he said blues and rock were definetly influenced by Brown. Somehow we were discussing our ethnic heritage and Gord spoke about remembering our connections to Europe and how we are all bound by our backgrounds and the global economy. Gord also mentioned that the band really enjoyed working with Bob Rock and there was a good chance they would work together in the future. We tried to get some info on U.S. tour dates, but nothing to report. In the end we had a great evening watching the show with all of our Hipbase friends gathered near the front of the stage. Nothing can beat being with friends and watching The Hip ring in the new year.

Hugh’s Review: 2006-10-23 – Toronto, ON

The Phoenix Theatre was filled with excited Hip fans anticipating the 9 pm start of a nearly two hour rock show. The temperature was quickly rising along with “The Hip” chants, as our boys from Kingston took to the stage to play every song from their new album. The new tracks were intertwined with many long time favorites. Fans old and new, were singing along to many of the new tracks, but the seldom played Pigeon Camera and Titanic Terrarium were the suprises of the night.

The show started with Family Band and went into the classic Courage. Gord battered his mikestand back and forth throughout the song, finally sending it crashing to the floor. He then walked over to the dislodged mike, grabbed it between his feet and used a common soccer move to kick the mike backwards over his shoulder and into his hand. A few songs later Gord asked the crowd if anyone remembered Gus as he roamed from side to side on the stage like an angry polar bear, just before the song began. This was followed by Poets and an animated Downie who strutted back and forth like a rooster/peacock, fluttering his red handkerchief behind him like a tail. Gord ended the song by holding the base of his mikestand to his crotch and extended it like a giant penis out over the crowd. The fans responded by screaming wildly at him.

The Hip are always a hard working band, but I noticed that each band member’s shirt was as sweat-soaked as Gord Downie’s this night. The 100th Meridian was awesome as Gord danced wildly next to Robbie as he ripped through his solo for that song. I was impressed by Johnny Fay’s drumming all night, but he was more than exceptional on Titanic Terrarium. Johnny brought the song to a loud cresendo and back to a quiet beat with his drumming. He was switching back and forth between his regular drumsticks and his padded toms. In fact, the song ended with him using one of each.

The Hip played a 20 song main set, then returned for a two song encore which ended with Fire in the Hole. Gord D. is always very entertaining to watch because of his on stage antics and the emotion he puts into the delivery of his lyrics. During the last song, he did something I have never seen him do before. We are all familiar with his mikestand battles and how he deftly kicks it back and forth. Last night he “stickhandled” the mikestand using only his feet. The mikestand was just like a hockey stick as he manuvered it from side to side, never losing control for over a minute, never touching it with his hands!

Overall this was a great show. I really enjoyed how all the World Container tracks sounded great live. It seemed as if the band really enjoyed playing them. It was also good to see all the fans singing along to all the new songs less than one week after the new release.

Hugh’s Review: 2006-09-09 – Straford, ON

This was a wonderfully enjoyable show. It definitly had a southern Ontario feel to it, and that’s a good thing! The show took place in the middle of a huge plowed-under cornfield on the outskirts of Stratford, Ontario. (As a tribute to Lord Brazle I dub it the ” Dope Deal in the Middle of a Cornfield” show. The setlist involved a great mix of old and new songs. The surprising thing to me about the show was that THe Hip’s long time road crew was replaced by faces that I assume came from the new management company. Leather-hatted Billy Ray is the only roadie left from the previous crew. Just before The Hip came on stage I thought I spotted Bob Rock standing in the stage left wing on Paul’s side. I wasn’t sure, but that blond mane of hair is almost unmistakeable. This was later confirmed when Gord D. dedicated Don’t Wake Daddy to “Bob”. Who else could it be? After hearing of the great live performances the band is known for, I guess Bob had to see it for himself. He wasn’t disappointed in my opinion. I loved the show and this is number 30 for me.

The Hip played four new songs from their upcoming CD release. “In View” made it’s live debut. I think it rocks and I throughly enjoyed it. Just as Fort York 2 had its 38 Years Old suprise, this setlist included 50 Mission Cap! As the song played on, Gord walked along the feed back speakers at the front of the stage like he was balancing on a log placed precariously between two nearby cliffs. He “fell off” then began using his speaker like a Stair Master machine. He was pumping his arms and legs in a running motion while going up and down on the speaker. His antics had Gord S. and Robbie laughing between each other as they played different songs.

The best songs of the night for me were numbers 12-15 in the 17 song main set. These included “In View, Don’t Wake Daddy, Wheat Kings and Poets”. Gord broke out my favorite peacock imitation during Poets. I almost forgot to mention the very unusual camera angle used for the two big video screen feeds. It was directly above the band members head’s looking down. It provided great views of the finger work of Paul, Gord S. and Robbie as they played their guitars. Robbie’s guitar playing was magical. His guitar riffs were bluesy, crisp and hard. The last thing I want to mention was Gord’s almost full display of his acting/pantomime repertoire. During the jam just before the rant in 100th Meridian, Gord began crazy dancing and kicking his mikestand back and forth as he does so skillfully while reeling the mike back in with the cord. Next he jumped on his motorcycle straddling the mikestand. He put his full weight on the mikestand as he gunned the throttle and burned rubber down the road. Great camera views on the video feed, including the overhead I mentioned. Gord threw the mikestand down and it was bent in a moderate “U” shape. Gord squated down like a weight lifter and placed the bent bar on his shoulders and it appeared to be groaning from to much weight on each end. He pressed it to the top and let the feet of the mikestand slide down his shoulders until it landed on the stage in a somewhat upright manner. The bend was unmistakable. Gord used only his arms and hands to muscle the mikestand into a near straight position again. Now Gord used the mikestand to stir the giant cauldron of witch’s brew in front of him. Lastly he paddled up and down the stage with his mikestand/paddle and canoe before launching into the ending rant. Entertaining to say the least!

Good to see Chris, Jamie, Mark and all my pals from the Hipbase. As Chris mentioned there were numerous recording rigs. The crowd was intense in front of Gord and he asked them to tone it down a couple of times. There was a little minor pushing and shoving in the VIP section I was in on Robbie’s side, but not enough to ruin anything. Like everyone else, all I can do is wait for the album to drop and wonder what the touring schedule will be like.

Hugh’s Review: 2006-07-03 – Chicago, IL


Don’t Wake Daddy
The Lonely End Of The Rink
New Orleans Is Sinking
Gus: The Polar Bear From Central Park
‘It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken’
Twist My Arm
Escape Is At Hand For The Travellin’ Man
The Last Of The Unplucked Gems
At The Hundredth Meridian
Are You Ready
Grace, Too
My Music At Work
The Drop Off
Fire In The Hole

An estimated 1 million people gathered in Grant Park, located in downtown Chicago, to view the city’s Fourth of July fireworks display over Lake Michigan. As downtown filled for the patriotic celebration, the House of Blues quickly filled with excited Hip fans. It wasn’t long before we were treated to a high energy show filled with Gord Downie antics and excellent musicianship from all the band members.

After the powerful tones of the opener Don’t Wake Daddy ended, the band played one of their soon to be released songs, Lonely End of the Rink. As many of you know, this song is filled with hockey references. When Gord sang the line “Jump into the rush” he became a hockey player stickhandling through the opposing team. When Gord sang the line about “fakes and the sweetest of dekes” he became a goalie trying to make a stop on a break away. The fan favorite NOIS returned to the setlist in a U.S. venue for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. The temperature was literally rising within the HOB as the fans danced to the pulsating beat of The Hip’s music. One of the best songs of the night was Twist My Arm. To start Gord suddenly grabbed his mikestand and held it like a spear or javelin. He spotted something, then threw his spear into the crowd almost releasing it. As the song continued Gord became more animated. He danced and strutted his trademark rooster/peacock. Instead of using his hand for his tail feathers, Gord held his red bandana behind himself and it became a flowing tail. It fluttered behind him as he gyrated back and forth. Gord changed personas and he was a matador taunting a bull with his red cape/bandana.

The next song was Escape. Gord explained how the song was inspired by Jim Ellison, the lead singer for the now defunct Material Issue. Gord related that Jim had slept in The Hip’s van overnight on a past tour. The band had lost touch with Jim when they heard of his death a few years later. During the 100th Meridian Gord was dancing about wildly and riding his motorcycle mikestand. Then suddenly Gord was fiddling with his earplugs. The portable battery on his waist that powers his earplugs went dead. He took the earplugs out and stuck them in a guy’s ears in the front row. Gord took them back and quickly changed batteries. The fan was very suprised to say the least. During the musical break near the end of the song the entire venue clapped in unison to the beat of Johnny’s drums and Gord Sinclair’s bass. It was at this point that Robbie and Paul had a blues guitar battle. Robbie began with an excellent riff then he would fade out and Paul would amp up and play a bluesy riff of his own. They went back and forth displaying a little flair along with their technical skill. It sounded so good. By this time it was hot and steamy inside the HOB. During the intro to Grace Too Gord said, “It’s hot! It’s Afganistan hot! I want to go home. I don’t want to die! Bring them home. End the war”! With one last song in the main set and an encore that included Sherpa, our musical adventure ended.

Robbie Baker was kind enough to leave us some back stage passes for a meet and greet after the show. We were all taken to a small area in the upper balcony of the HOB. There all five band members chatted with a good sized group of family members and friends. It was difficult to speak with the guys because so many wanted to say hello to them. Robbie eventually made his way to us. He is very easy going with a great sense of humor. He told us the interesting story on the difficulty of obtaining the master tapes for the Hipeponymous compilation. We were able to say hello to the other band members before we left. Is it possible for a person to be totally satisfied and drained, yet still be yearning for his next Hip show? I would say yes, because that is exactly how I feel.

Hugh’s Review: 2006-06-24 – Toronto, ON

It seems as if The Tragically Hip realized that many hardcore fans would be attending this particular show. I’m sure this was obvious to them when the show sold out quickly through pre-sale. The set list was full of suprises both old and new. The mixture of songs surely pleased everyone there. Our concert experience began with a large group of Hipbasers meeting together for a few beers prior to the show. It is always fun to meet the people behind the screen names. It was a festive atmosphere as we all anticipated the show.

The Fort York venue was filled with fans screaming for The Hip as they began with the powerful Don’t Wake Daddy. This was followed by Courage in which Gord stood up on the monitor and pretended to urinate on the fans as he sang the line,”Piss on all of your background….”. Next I was thrilled to hear the new song Ocean. I would describe it as an upbeat rocker that I really enjoyed.

The Hip played many of their best songs from nearly every album. It would be difficult to pick the best song of the night with such a wonderfully varied set list. The Hip demonstrated to me the exact reason why I have become such a big fan of theirs. There ability to play almost anything in their large catalogue of songs continues. I loved hearing No Threat live (my first time). I think it’s safe to say that everyone was blown away by 38 Years Old. There were so many highlights it would be hard to put them in order. I had to laugh when Gord told the Canadian audience that “We must stop following Prime Minister Bush”. Near the end of Something On Gord was crawling on the stage between his monitor and Paul’s. Gord extended himself out past the end of the stage and reached into the crowd. He was lovingly mauled by the fans around him. As The Drop Off was playing Gord stumbled around the stage like a blind man in an unfamiliar room. During this Robbie was playing some wicked riffs. Robbie was the epitome of coolness and style wearing a dark blazer with a cowboy hat and aviator glasses.

The show ended with We’ll Go Too. The entire place was going crazy as the song began to wind down. Gordie casually streched out across the two center stage monitors like he was watching T.V. on the couch at home. As he got up to leave the stage he said, “There’s a lot of power in this house”. I think he was refering to the former military might that was onced housed in this historic fort and the power that was produced between The Tragically Hip and their fans last night. I would have to rank this as a “top 3” show out of the 28 I have seen. The set list was phenomenol and I enjoyed hearing the crowd sing along to the songs. We watched the show from in front of Robbie about half way back. Everyone in our area was singing and dancing with no rough stuff. I had a great time meeting with all the Hipbasers at the show. I especially enjoyed hanging with my Hipbase pals from Brantford these past two weekends as we experienced The Hip together