The Tragically Hip Live In Kingston - Farewell to Gord Downie
August 24, 2016
A few night's ago, The Tragically Hip finished off their cross country tour of their latest studio album, Man Machine Poem, in Canada in Kingston, Ontario. They played a nearly 3 hour long set right in the town where they started back in 1984, at the Rogers K-Rock Centre.
One of the most magical things about the show? The fact that every single Canadian was able to tune in worldwide to watch it for free on the CBC. The entire show was streamed without any ads or interruptions. Why would we do this, you ask? Such a big Canadian band that sold out a show within minutes? Some tickets even going for as much as $25,000 by scalpers?
The reason this show was so special is the fact that every Canadian viewed it as a goodbye. A last hurrah by the Tragically Hip, as their frontman Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer earlier this year.
The band made no mention that it would be their last show, or the end of The Hip as we know it, but when you hear news about a bandmate being diagnosed with such a serious disease, you can't help but think it.
Gord Downie was diagnosed with glioblastoma, which is an aggressive cancer of the astrocytes of the brain. These cells make up the supportive tissues of the brain. It is very difficult to treat, and the median prognosis for survival ranges between 14 months and 2 years depending on how aggressive the cancer is, and how the patient responds to treatment.
Onstage, you could barely tell that Gord was sick. He had surgery and underwent chemo and radiation therapy treatments prior to his performance, but remained energetic and animated onstage. You could tell he was giving the show everything he had as a gift to his loyal fans, and perhaps even to himself as someone who did what he did for the love of music.
Thousands upon thousands of Canadian fans attended the show from inside and outside the venue, and all around the world. I tuned in from McAdoo, Pennsylvania. The Canadian olympians in Rio watched the show on big screen TVs. Canadians all over the country had parties and cook-outs with the show on. An entire country was united by the music; even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at the concert.
While Downie had the entire country watching him, he addressed the Prime Minister. He could have talked about anything he wanted. Cancer, politics, raising money for cancer research.. but he chose to speak out about the issues involving the indigenous people of Canada, and their years of mistreatment. He announced that he trusts Trudeau to fix it. With that, I was speechless. The whole country will be watching to make sure Trudeau carries out a dying man's wish: Fixing relations with our indigenous population.
While I wasn't physically at the show, and it would be a million years before I ever get to photograph such a famous and established group such as The Tragically Hip, I did get a couple screenshots for memory's sake.
I started listening to The Hip at the young age of 12. It was 1998, and their sixth studio album Phantom Power had been released that year. "Poets" was getting airplay on all the major radio stations. Most kids my age were going wild for The Spice Girls or Backstreet Boys, but there I was as a 12 year old girl, listening to The Hip in my blanket fort, writing in my journal, and making doodles. My sister and I used to love singing to this track and dancing around like dorks. It's one of my fondest memories.
The Tragically Hip is more than a rock band. They are a part of Canadian music history, and every Canadian holds a special place for them in their hearts.