The Tragically Hip gets messy with a surprise gig at Vancouver’s wee Railway Club


By Steve Newton

Canadian guitar-rock heroes the Tragically Hip took all of Vancouver by surprise on July 12 when they announced a last-minute concert that night at the wee Railway Club (capacity 176). When word went out over local rock station 99.3 the Fox that 75 wristbands for the show were on sale at the club for a measly 10 bucks each, drivers on the Georgia Viaduct were reportedly pulling U-turns to get back within sprinting distance of the Dunsmuir venue.

Those lucky enough to get a wristband—or weasel their way in as members of the press—were treated to an opening set by Ontario’s Rheostatics that featured a freewheeling version of Joe Jackson’s “I’m the Man”. Then a cowboy-hatted Gordon Downie and his casually dressed bandmates shouldered their way through the beer-guzzling patrons and, to crazed howls of approval, started into “Nautical Disaster”.

They followed that recent hit with “Blow at High Dough”, “Twist My Arm”, “Grace, Too”, and the new compositions “Springtime in Vienna” and “Gift Shop”. The six-song set was messy and full of mistakes, but there were no reports of irate fans demanding refunds—especially since the wristbands included admission to the Hip’s headlining show at UBC the next night.

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