When last we spoke about the Tragically Hip I was expressing ambivalence about their newest album, World Container, but still looking forward to seeing them not once but twice at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. I’d seen them in a club once before (June 28, 2004, the day In Between Evolution was released), but the occasion was marred by frequent (and totally unnecessary) appearances by Bookie from 102.1 the Edge. (The show was aired live on the Edge, which apparently gave Bookie license to interrupt every other song with insipid and totally pointless questions. It wasn’t until he left for good and the band rolled off a mini “greatest hits” set that the show caught fire. Please, let’s move on before I ram my head through the monitor.) This time, there’d be no Bookie–just the Hip and a lot of songs I’d never heard live.
Now that my partner-in-Hip-crime is livin’ la vida loca in Australia (:@), I’ve found a new group of friends/Hip fans with whom to make irrational financial decisions (more on that in a second). Last night’s crüe included myself, Ambassador Gordo, the Tedsticle, and 3. We met up beforehand at the Tim Hortons across from Union Station and then drove up to the Phoenix, where the line-up was long but manageable. While we were waiting, Ted expressed his desire to hear “Fifty Mission Cap” live. I tried letting him down as gently as I could, explaining it was practically impossible: when I’m in the audience, the Hip simply don’t play “Fifty Mission Cap”. After twelve shows (the vast majority of which have been in Toronto, by the way), I’d heard it live a grand total of…once. Once! Given my recent history, then, I figured there wasn’t a chance. Was there?
Once inside we found a spot twenty-five feet from the stage, Robbie’s side, and settled in for the wait. Kevin and I ended up chatting with a delightfully drunken guy from Kanata, who ended the conversation by extending an open invitation to crash his place whenever we were in town. (He actually gave us his address! He also said, “If you made out with my wife, come on in!” He was a hero. But I digress…back to the show!) The pre-show mix, meanwhile, was an ecletic melange of Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and Superunknown-era Soundgarden (I probably haven’t heard “My Wave” in five years). Finally, after almost an hour of standing around, the lights went down and the Hip were onstage. Gord came out first, followed by the rest of ’em; I think it took me five full minutes to notice Paul Langlois because, well, he’s so useless.
- Lonely End of the Rink
Gord: “Do you know this one?”
- FIFTY MISSION CAP!!!!! (I’m not kidding! Two songs in! The place went nuts, by the way; it ended with a “Go Leafs Go!” chant and Gord exclaiming, “I went to a rock n’ roll concert and a hockey game broke out!” Speaking of which, at least five members of the Toronto Maple Leafs were in attendance, including the town’s newest saviour in net, Andrew Raycroft. And oh: “WORKED IT IN!”)
Clearly, it was all downhill from there…and it was:
- In View (which sounded alright, surprisingly enough)
- Lake Fever (meh)
- The Drop-Off (solid)
- Escape is at Hand for the Travellin’ Man (!)
- Summer is Killing Us (please, God, make them retire this song)
- World Container (a very pretty little ditty)
- Last Night I Dreamed You Didn’t Love Me (the order gets sketchy here; I’m pretty sure the next few songs are out of place)
- Nautical Disaster (too big for the room)
- Luv(sic) (most clever song title ever?)
- The Dire Wolf (what is it, 2002??!)
- Ahead by a Century
- The Kids Don’t Get It (best of the new songs; I apologize for the Marcy Playground comparison)
- Wheat Kings
- Yer Not the Ocean
- Blow at High Dough (again, too big for the room; it’s like hearing “New Orleans is Sinking” at the Mod Club)
- Family Band
The band left, to rapturous applause, then returned with…
Gord mumbled something incoherently…and then, straight out of left field:
- ON THE VERGE!!!!!!!!!!
Remember when “Hard to Imagine” was my Holy Grail of live Pearl Jam songs? Well, “On the Verge” (along with “Thugs”) was my Holy Grail of Tragically Hip live songs–except it wasn’t even on my radar screen before they started playing it. At first I didn’t know what I was hearing, then let out a stunned “holy shit!” when my brain finally clicked in. The band absolutely nailed it, even though Gord mumbled his way through the first verse (with Robbie suppressing a grin). It built to a raging finish, with Paul Langlois (Paul Langlois!) leaning back and just givin’ ‘er on his guitar…and it was over. Waves from the band, “I’m not worthy”s from Gord and the lights were back on, with more Rolling Stones beckoning us towards the exit.
Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow! Can I have another “wow”, please? That was the band’s second show in support of World Container, and if the rest are as good then we’re in for a helluva tour. Me, I’ll be back again on Thursday for the fourth and final Phoenix show. (If you’re in the Tragically Hip and you’re reading this, please play “Thugs” for me.) Meanwhile, the band announced its Canadian arena tour today, which includes an astonishing ten shows in Ontario–in Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Barrie, Sudbury, Peterborough, Oshawa, Ottawa, London, Hamilton and Toronto. (Look at those cities!) Consider this your official “call to arms” vis a vis financial irresponsibility. If you don’t think I’m seeing the Hip in the ‘shwa you’re quite mad.