Review and Photos by Mike Bax
If you grew up along the Toronto locale of Highway 401, and were weaned on the musical Kool Aid served by CFNY (The Edge) 102.1, you couldn’t go through the late 1980s and 1990s and not have some sort of exposure to The Tragically Hip. Love them, tolerate them or hate them, there can be no denying the band’s cultural relevance to Canadiana, nor can you deny the band’s musical popularity.
More than just a live servicing of their ‘hits’, the Fully and Completely tour celebrates what is arguably the band’s finest moment on record; the twelve songs collected together in 1992 to form their third full length, Fully Completely. It is this album, sandwiched between two short sets of five songs that comprised the songs played this evening in Kitchener, Waterloo, to an almost full house of fans. While Hip puritans might argue that a few of their favourite songs were skipped, there really couldn’t be a finer set of 22 Tragically Hip tracks performed in one sitting. Personally, I’ve seen the Tragically Hip a number of times over the years, but never really quite like this.
A DJ spun music for the crowd for an hour or so as the audience filled the venue, consuming their libations of choice. By the time the band took the stage at 9pm, the audience was primed for some live Canadiana. Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair, Johnny Fay and Paul Langlois took the dimly lit stage followed by Gordon Downie as the lights came up to the band performing ‘Grace, Too’. Downie, renowned for his years of eclectic stage antics, mimed enthusiasm towards the audience from each side and the centre of the stage. His long legs and animated expressions filled the room with excitement as the band worked their way through their finest material.
After ‘New Orleans Is Sinking’, the stage area was draped in panels of transparent screens that boasted the graphics from Fully Completely. As the band worked their way through these songs, these panels were raised and dropped to great visual effect as graphics highlighting the songs’ themes were projected onto them. Kitchener fans lost their minds to songs like ‘Courage’, ‘At the Hundredth Meridian’, ‘Lionized’ and ‘Fifty-Mission Cap’. I had a little moment during ‘The Wherewithal’, my favourite Hip tune, and was revelling in the song’s greatness in a live environment. It’s not a track the band play live very often.
The five songs that closed off the evening included ‘Boots or Hearts’ and ‘Blow at High Dough’, two Hip fan favourites. As good as these songs were, the heart of this evening’s performance was the Fully Completely album, and I think both the band and the fans knew this. I’d seen all I wanted to see by the time ‘Eldorado’ was wrapping up, and the five song encore felt like I’d been served a second helping of dessert.
Don’t get me wrong, I stayed for the encore. And loved it. But it was almost too much of a good thing.
Man Machine Poem
New Orleans Is Sinking
Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)
Looking for a Place to Happen
At the Hundredth Meridian
Locked in the Trunk of a Car
We’ll Go Too
My Music at Work
Boots or Hearts
Blow at High Dough