THE TRAGICALLY HIP: AIR CANADA CENTRE, 02/19/2015
Canadian rock heroes The Tragically Hip shook the rafters of a sold out ACC on Thursday night as they revisited their seminal third album, Fully Completely from front to back. The album, arguably their career pinnacle, has recently been treated to a re-issue and a re-master and has aged very well over the twenty-three years since it’s original release. The album proved to be a turning point in the band’s career as it was the first not to feature Don Smith’s hand in production; instead, forsaking him for sessions in London with acclaimed metal producer Chris Tsangarides. The resulting album gave rise to numerous rock radio staples, including: “Courage”, “Locked in the Trunk of a Car” and “Fifty Mission Cap.”
The set on the Fully Completely tour has the band playing a selection of random songs to start the show followed by a brief interlude before they work their way through the album song by song. On this night, Gord Sinclair’s muted bass notes of the anthemic “Grace, Too” kicked things off leading to the inevitable “I come from downtown” sing-a-long. As is always the case at a Tragically Hip show, lead singer Gord Downie is the focal point with his manic Thom Yorke meets Michael Stipe interpretive dance moves. Looking every bit the rock star in his leather pants and fedora, Downie had the masses eating out of his palm from the start.
The opening selection of songs concluded with a heartfelt ‘Ahead by a Century” and a playful “My Music at Work” after which the band left the stage while ambient music played to graphic reproductions of Fully Completely’s original artwork on projection panels that had been lowered from above…this signifying the start of the album run-through.
When the band returned Downie had replaced his fedora for a cowboy hat and thus started the journey back to 1992. The phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” comes to mind when watching The Tragically Hip. No need to reinvent the wheel when you have thousands of people going bananas over faithful renditions of “Courage”, “At the Hundreth Meridian” and of course with this being the home of the hapless Maple Leafs, “Fifty Mission Cap”and it’s tragic tale of Bill Barilko always takes on an added significance.
Once the twelve song cycle of Fully Completely had run its course and everyone had a chance to catch their collective breath, the hit-laden encore was home to fan favourites “In View’, “Poets”, “Bobcaygeon”, “Nautical Disaster” and a barn-burning “Blow at High Dough.”
The Tragically Hip has been a Canadian musical institution now for a couple of decades and it’s easy to see why. First and foremost the band has established a special relationship with its audience that is unlike any other seen in this country and part of that is Gord Downie’s on-stage theatrics and his unique ability to tell Canadian stories through his songwriting. Secondly, the band has always been extremely tight and deft at producing jams that their audience will devour. These qualities were cemented with Fully Completely and if you have the opportunity to see them revisit this landmark record in concert…than I urge you to do so!
- Johnny Hooper