Canadian band brings audience to feet in song, dance
Friday, November 02, 2007
By Tiffany Bentley
“I don’t know the names of the songs,” said Jim Ouderkirk, 34, of Syracuse, “I just know all the words.”
Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip performed Thursday night in Syracuse to a packed Landmark Theatre, including Ouderkirk.
The group is famed with our northern neighbors, where they earned a spot in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2005, but has a strong following in the United States, too. The Syracuse show, a late stop at the end of their album tour for “World Container,” proved to be a worthwhile road trip to the many Canadian fans who showed up to experience “the Hip,” as the audience chanted for pre-show motivation.
It seemed that everyone in the audience had been listening to the band since its inception 24 years ago. The band’s sound, characteristic of R.E.M. vocals and Tom Petty instrumentation, held a common thread through each song. But what sets the style apart from being one unified push is lead singer Gordon Downie’s performance of every crafted lyric as if on stage for a theater production, rather than a rock concert.
“I had a dream,” sang Downie to a white handkerchief he tossed in the air repeatedly, “you were there staring at me.”
The white handkerchief, a common element in many sweaty, energetic rock performances, took on an entirely new function. It served as a prop throughout the band’s emotion-filled ballads.
During Downie’s rapid singing, it was sometimes necessary to follow his eyes on the handkerchief to determine where the music was going. But the audience never skipped a beat when singing along.
The whole concert was one giant singalong and, later on, a dance-along. Songs like “Music at Work,” and “Yer Not the Ocean,” motivated audience members to shuffle so much, rows were eliminated and a sea of swaying heads emerged.
There were captivating moments as well. Lead guitarist Rob Baker often mesmerized the audience with his bluesy and sometimes metal-sounding guitar solos. Drummer Johnny Fay kept the same beat going and varied the tempo with loud cymbal crashes.
For a band that has been around as long as The Tragically Hip, the sound is still crisp and the lyrics relevant. The Syracuse audience sang like they were experiencing the songs as they were created.
The music in general is good enough to keep fans entertained during a three-hour concert, but also to keep fans around for a quarter century, while bringing in young fans to their crowd-pleasing antics. Not only did The Tragically Hip join two neighboring countries for one night in song, the band reminded many people that all people can find common ground if they just sing.