THE TRAGICALLY HIP: MOLSON AMPHITHEATRE, 07/01/2015
There is truly no more Canadian experience than a Tragically Hip concert on Canada Day. Playing to a sold out crowd at Toronto's Molson Amphitheatre, the band faithfully played their 1992 breakthrough album, Fully Completely, in it's entirety, filling out the remainder of their set with a wealth of material from their more than twenty-five year spanning body of work. Notable standouts included such hits as "Poets," "Ahead by a Century," and "Music at Work." However, since The Hip have previously undertaken this classic album recreation as recently as February of this year at Toronto's Air Canada Centre, this review is as much as anything an opportunity to remind readers why The Tragically Hip are an important Canadian band.
For as long as The Tragically Hip have existed, they have been the foremost champions of their fellow Canadian musicians. Whether it's been taking acts such as The Rheostatics or the Constantines on tour with them, or lead singer Gord Downie offering vocal contributions to acts as varied as Change of Heart and Fucked Up, the band have always managed to keep some of their spotlight shining on the bands that exist alongside them. As recently as last year, Downie voluntarily stepped out of his comfort zone to record an entire album with The Sadies, released on the indie label Arts & Crafts to little fanfare despite robust critical response. Bold moves like this remind Canadians why The Hip are still a vibrant, creative force to be reckoned with, and not a dusty old "classic rock" band to be left on the shelf to deteriorate with age. Indeed, one need not look any further than the fact that the band have opted to work with Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew to produce their hotly anticipated forthcoming album.
All of this begs the question: why bother recreating a "classic" album live? Sure, bands such as Rush undertook the same creative exercise in 2010 on their Time Machine Tour, and even considerably hipper acts like the Pixies spent well over a year recreating their seminal Doolittle album on stage every night in 2011. Perhaps the single strongest argument for why the "classic albums live" approach to touring is effective can be boiled down to one simple fact: it reminds the band why their fans love them. The exercise inherently favours past success over potential future failure, and in the process reminds a band what they do best. I would like to think that when The Hip finally wrap up this tour in support of an album that's more than two decades old, they go into the studio and record the album that they will be performing in its entirety twenty years from now. Fully, completely.
- Leks Maltby