This will most likely be the last posting I make about The Tragically Hip, but I wanted a bit of a round-up.
I got home from our trip (still not documented - alas) and found that for whatever reason the PVR had not recorded the Aug. 20th Kingston show (the one watched by 11.7 million Canadians!). I wondered if it had been some blackout on recording, but others had mentioned it worked, though it cut off the end of the concert, since they hadn't added an hour to the end of the official broadcast time. We had planned ahead for that, but the recording never started in the first place. Very frustrating. One possibility is that we do get 2-3 minute power blackouts at least once a week, and that might have thrown things off. (I grant you this is less serious than others dealing with daily brown-outs, but it still feels pretty unacceptable given the rates we pay Hydro. Maybe too many squirrels and raccoons chewing on wires in Riverdale?)
I had said I would buy a DVD of the concert, and I still expect to do so, but in the meantime it wasn't all that hard to track down someone who had put the whole thing up on Youtube. And with a bit of additional searching, I tracked down the August 12 and 14 concerts in Toronto. I did like the 12th (featuring Fully Completely) just a bit more than the 14th, which went a bit deeper into Road Apples, but also featured Now for Plan A. The second half of the Hamilton concert on the 16th featured World Container, so that was also worth streaming. The final concert is a bit of a masterpiece, and the only thing I would have wanted to see was So Hard Done By, perhaps in place of Toronto #4. I just don't see how they can top that, and almost any concert after this would be an anti-climax, though I am sure people would be understanding if Gord's cancer goes into remission and they do tour again.
I'm fairly sure at some point I owned Day for Night (which features So Hard Done By and several other classic cuts), but I couldn't locate it, and I gave in and ordered another copy. It arrived last night, and I played it through. I don't believe I've ever listened to the entire CD in order, which is kind of strange, so maybe I didn't own it after all. Anyway, it will take quite a while for it to sink in, and I don't think it will ever replace Fully Completely, which is basically burned into my brain from repeated listening over the years.
I was talking with my friend about the Hip and this half celebration/half wake tour, and we agreed that it was the right way to go out. In a way, it gives the fans more closure (again assuming that the band really does break up) certainly than they got for Prince or Michael Jackson. David Bowie did manage to get out his last album (a dark mini-masterpiece that I'll probably always mentally pair with Man Machine Poem), so that helps a bit. It's never easy to let one's musical heroes go, since it just reminds us of the "Inevitability of death," which is yet another song off Day for Night...
P.S. (9/3) I don't know a lot about Gord Downie's background, but he strikes me as a bit of a working-class poet in a guitar band. His lyrics really are quite interesting, even though it may take many, many listens for them to actually sink in. After going to the hipmuseum site, I learned that the song Courage features a significant chunk of Hugh MacLennan's The Watch That Ends the Night. I read the book many years ago, though I wouldn't have recognized a passage out of it (I don't have that kind of memory). I suspect the link will inspire me to move the novel a bit higher on my reading list. Downie has quite a few references like this, to something he had been reading, like Blaise Pascal, Tess Gallagher (Raymond Carver's wife and a writer herself), and quite a few others. Downie himself lists several other writers that influenced him: Irving Layton, Al Purdy, Sam Shepard and Raymond Carver. While it is just my opinion, I find his lyrics the most interesting and often profound for a Canadian musician, second only to Leonard Cohen, but the difference is they are played in the context of an always rocking, raucous guitar band (hence the interesting dissonance) whereas Cohen's lyrics are generally more front and center, though some versions he does are quite rocking as well.