It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the Tragically Hip in concert…and by “a long time” I mean two-and-a-half months. Happily, the Hip are never away for long–and tonight, I’m seeing them live for the tenth time. This is the fourth time I’ve seen them since In Between Evolution was released back in June; after a club show in Toronto, a festival show in Ottawa and a hometown show in Kingston, I’m ready for a good ol’ fashioned slab of arena rock. Bust out the bic lighters for “Bobcaygeon”.
I should also mention that the Hip’s long-awaited DVD is being shot at tonight’s concert. What this means in terms of the band’s setlist I don’t pretend to know. The Hip seem to be regressing in that regard: they’re playing virtually the same show every night, cycling the occasional “rare” song (if lesser-known singles count as “rare”, that is) into the setlist, going through the same batch of radio hits every single night. I’ve complained about this a lot…and yet it still isn’t stopping me from seeing the band at every given opportunity, even though I won’t be making the hour-long trek down to Hamilton for their New Year’s Eve show. I guess this has to do in large part with the fact that they’re still one of my top five favourite bands of all-time, and as such demand my unwavering loyalty. And, well, even if they’re playing basically the same songs every time I see them, the Hip are still capable of dominating a live setting like few other bands.
Case in point: two nights about my friends Jon and Ryan, who probably know a combined seven Hip songs between them, saw the band at the Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay. (And before I continue, allow me to say how badly I wish I could have made that show. Forget the fact that the Gardens is smaller than Jock Harty Arena: how cool would it have been to have seen them in the same building where I learned to skate? Isn’t that, like, the ultimate Tragically Hip/Canadian experience in a nutshell right there? I thought it was, and so I went so far as to price flights up to Thunder Bay; it provded to be an expedition in lunacy and so I didn’t go. And yet I digress.) When I talked to Jon after the show, he was using the sort of hushed, reverential terms that are normally reserved for visiting dignitaries or the daughters of famous hotel owners. If Jon could be that impressed by the band when he doesn’t even know the song “Courage”, then I have no excuse complaining. And even if I do start to quibble about their setlists between now and tonight’s show, hearing the first notes of “Grace, Too” explode through the Air Canada Centre like a nuclear bomb through Palestine* outta set me straight.
*–In case you don’t know to what I’m referring and suddenly think I’m a raging bigot, I’d invite you to visit Matthew Good’s blog at http://www.matthewgood.org/web/mblog/index.php and read the entry entitled “MSNBC Apologizes (Not Really)”. And Bill Maher got kicked off the air for what he said??!