the Tragically Hip, 15 October 2009, Albany – a review

About two weeks ago, T and I drove up to Albany to see the Tragically Hip. By far, it was the best show I’ve ever gone to. The Hip’s front man, Gord Downie, is a maniac, and I mean that in the best sense of the word. His stage presence, jumping around, dancing, engaging with the audience, was incredible. Several times throughout the show, he walked out into the audience on the backs of the seats as far as his mic cord would allow him (he came within 3 feet of us at one point). The Hip have been together for 26 years; I’ve seen a lot of shows by other bands that have been together for that long, and most of the time their performances are very predictable and uninspired. Not the Hip. On stage, they acted like it was their first tour. They were present, even when playing songs that they’ve probably played thousands of times. A reflection of the energy they had on stage – this was the first concert I’ve been to in a long, long time in which the entire audience was on its feet throughout the entire show.

I know it sounds weird, but I felt somehow validated by their performance, even more than I feel validated by their recorded music. There’s an emotional rawness and honesty to Downie’s writing and performances. No artifice or disconnect. I tried to explain it to my therapist, and she said, “He’s doing what you’re doing.” Probably the nicest thing she could have said to me. Yes. Exactly. Gord Downie is doing what I am trying to do; he’s not hiding the things that might be uncomfortable to sing about or write about or talk about in public; he’s airing it all. That sort of honesty can’t be faked.

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