There are too many reflections on the Tragically Hip’s Kingston show. One third of Canadians watched it. So many people are tweeting, blogging and instagramming their thoughts. It was a powerful moment in Canadian’s history and one that we’ll remember forever: the moment that a band so indelibly ingrained into the consciousness and personal and collective histories of this big, gorgeous country said a final goodbye in their hometown, in front of a sold-out crowd of thousands, and aired on the CBC in front of millions.
So rarely does an artist come along that has a unique story to tell, and tells it in a way that no one else could even dare to try and duplicate. The world lacks originality, especially in the 21st century. And Gord Downie has remained completely original, right down to his sock scarf, spangled pants and Jaws shirt. The Hip’s live-on-air Kingston show demonstrated in full tour-de-force fashion, a career-spanning greatest hits collection that all Canadians could remember, relate to, and call their own. Could the United States, Great Britain, or other nations known for their own great musicians, pull this kind of intimacy off? Could anyone else unite a country this way? Only Gord Downie, a hero up there telling stories about at one time, playing to just 13 people in a room in Kingston, ON and then lauding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as destined for greatness, especially in improving the lives and relationships with First Nations people, could pull this off. Sometimes it takes someone like Gord Downie to, like gold medal olympic hockey games, like national tragedies, like brutal internationally broadcasted winter harshness, to bring an entire nation together under one roof to mourn and celebrate and sit on the edge of our seats all at the same time.
What’s amazing about this show is more than music: it’s someone who found out he is terminally ill and decided to do what he loves, (theoretically) one final time. It’s someone who wanted to share his life one last time with his band mates, his fans, and his country. Gord Downie’s final tour serves as a reminder to, whatever you do in life, and whatever you love, do it ‘fully and completely’.
The Tragically Hip was an institution that we could always, always count on. When the Montreal Massacre occurred, there they were. When people flock to cottage country every summer, there they are. When we need to be reminded that there are no dress rehearsals because “this is our life”, there they were. When we wanted a piece of history told in such a way that is passionate, intriguing, and never boring, there they were. The Tragically Hip is Canada, and has been since 1983. The world may not miss the Hip, but that Canada will miss them this much, means even more.
I loved watching this concert. I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself and my country. I love that we in Canada, canonize artists as opposed to gun slingers. I love that music has so much power over a nation, over millions of individuals, over a terminally ill singer to the point where he goes on the road for a whole summer playing in every major city in the country, because it was the best thing and only thing for him to do.
Thank you so much to the Tragically Hip & their crew, and of course, the great and powerful CBC for bringing this concert to all Canadians. This show, and this tour, were an amazing gift to Canada, and something I won’t ever forget.