By Steve Newton
Gordon Downie is famous for his wacky stage moves and bizarre gestures, but last night (February 6) at Rogers Arena he ramped up the oddness big-time. I’ve seen the Tragically Hip numerous times over the years, but never witnessed him being quite so wonderfully nutzoid. The fact that it was his 51st birthday might have helped.
Downie laid the screwiness on thick from the get-go. In the opening song, “Grace, Too”, from the 1994 Day for Night disc, he pranced around giddily and pulled off that I’m-rowing-a-canoe trick that Conan O’Brien does so well. Other times he would pretend he was casting a fishing line and reeling the audience in. You get the impression that he’s pining for a lake in Ontario or something.
Near the beginnning of “My Music at Work”, the lead-off track from 2000’s Music @ Work, Downie bellowed “Here’s my music at work!” while grimacing and squeezing the bejeesuz out of his left tit for reasons that were strictly his own.
Shortly thereafter about a dozen see-through banners were lowered to the sides of the stage and distorted visuals from the Fully Completely cover projected on them, signaling the start of that album’s complete performance, from “Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)” through “Eldorado”. For “Courage” Downie appeared sporting a white cowboy-hat and set out to madly stamp his shiny black-leather boots like a demented flamenco dancer.
While Downie has always been the visual focus of the Hip, the slash ‘n’ burn guitarwork of lead player Rob Baker and rhythm ace Paul Langlois remains its musical core. You could spend hours debating which Fully Completely tracks boasted the deadliest riffs, but you’d still wind up with a three-way tie between “Looking For a Place to Happen”, “Locked in the Trunk of a Car”, and “”Fifty-Mission Cap.”
And of course no Tragically Hip review would be complete without mention of the flawless rhythm-section of drummer Johnny Fay and bassist Gord Sinclair, neither of whom appear to have lost their respective gifts for fierce beats and propulsive bottom-end.
During the encore, when the Hip played “Poets”, I started thinking that a tour where they perform the 1998 Phantom Power album in its entirety would be in order, since it would have to include that provocative gem as well as the gorgeous “Bobcaygeon” and blistering “Fireworks”. But by the time the quintet finished off with “Blow at High Dough”–which garnered the night’s wildest crowd response by far–I was pondering how sweet a live reproduction of the 1989 Up to Here disc would be, boasting other choice cuts like “Opiated”, “Every Time You Go”, and “When the Weight Comes Down.”
Sometimes it just boggles the mind how many incredible songs one band can have–even with a nutzoid frontman.