That night in Toronto: The Tragically Hip @ Air Canada Centre. 08.10.16

By Jennifer Durley

Last night I stood in a crowd of about 20,000 people as we shouted in unison “at the hundredth meridian, where the great plains begin” like our lives depended on it. What a bunch of hosers.

Sometimes concert experiences – especially at large venue ones – are marred by the poor behaviour of other concert-goers. Not tonight. We weren’t there just for ourselves. We were there for Gord Downie. For the Tragically Hip,  a band we hold dear. For songs that have defined our Canadian experience.

We greeted the band and the opening chords of “The Luxury” with deafening cheers, but the moment Gord began to sing, we stopped to listen. Our cheers ebbed and flowed around his voice like waves. Not one word he sang or spoke would be drowned out by our noise. They were far too precious.

Sure, there were times when we all joined in to sing the anthems of our lives (“Gift Shop”, “Ahead by a Century”) – if we could manage it through the tears. And while many of us came to tears several times over the course of the night, the overall vibe was of energy and love. The source of the emanation was on stage in a shiny suit, givin’er.

I don’t proclaim to be anything more than average knowledge of the Hip’s catalogue. There were a number of songs that I couldn’t name, some that I’d forgotten about, and some I’d never heard before. But some, oh, but some that pierce the heart of me (“Flamenco” (!) “Poets”, and “Grace, Too”).

This band! This band that walked us through the valley of the shadow of death with a haunting and beautiful performance of “Wheat Kings”, and then restored our souls with “50 Mission Cap”.

This band that played their first set in tight configuration like they were on a small club stage.

This band that rocked out hard but ended the show with hugs.

This man! This man who with strength, courage, humility and an unparalleled depth of showmanship gave us a performance we’ll never forget.

This man who drank in our love and then poured it back out for us.

This man who brought poetry into our lives in a way no one else could ever have done.

Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

Check the full setlist for this show here. Have you attended any shows of the Hip’s “Man Machine Poem” tour? How many times have you seen them live? What’s the best memory you have related to them? Let us know in the comments and you’ll be featured in next Friday’s post. 


John K. Samson at Brandon Folk Fest. 7.24.16

By Regina Sienra

Brandon, Man., just witnessed the closest thing to a The Weakerthans reunion there has been since the split of the staple Winnipeg band was made official. John K. Samson was joined by drummer Jason Tait and bassist Greg Smith for the headlining set at the 32nd annual Brandon Folk, Music and Art Festival.

The three Weakerthans members were joined by Rusty Matyas, who has supported both The Weakerthans and Samson as a solo act. The always humble and shyly breathtaking Samson greeted the Brandon Folk Fest audience, mentioning this was the first time in 25 years he was playing there.  

The set had a massive start with “One Great City!” Samson then played the title track from the third Weakerthans album, Reconstruction Site. As it happens in many festivals, it takes some children to start a dance party in front of the stage. The upbeat “A New Name for Everything” and “Plea from a Cat Named Virtute” made some grown-ups get up and join the affair.

Samson included a few tracks from his solo LP, Provincial, like “Heart of the Continent”, “Cruise Night” and “When I write my Master’s thesis,” and some new songs like “Vampire Alberta Blues” – for which Shotgun Jimmie came up on stage as a guest –  and “On the 21st day,” which give us hope for a new solo album sometime in the future, although he has been playing these songs at this solo shows for more than a year.

“Sun in an Empty Room,” “Aside” and “Confessions of a Futon Revolutionist” were also part of the brilliant show delivered by Samson and his more-than-guests. With “Left and leaving,” a very intense finale to the main set and “My Favourite Chords” as a beautiful acoustic encore, the now-historic performance may not have given us enough hope to see The Weakerthans together again in the future, but it was a great reminder of those songs that have brought comfort to generations of outsiders, and in doing so have offered a lot of people a place where they do belong.

Thanks to Donna Lowe for making this review possible. Featured image by ShonicaR3 on Instagram