Canada’s Greatest Natural Resource

The Tragically Hip

“We’re forced to bed, but we’re free to dream.”

Gift Shop, The Tragically Hip

 

When I was in grade 10 geography, the bonus question on the final exam was “What is Canada’s greatest natural resource?”  I knew from previous classes that the answer the teacher was looking for was water.  But I was pretty sure I had done fine on the exam and didn’t need the bonus marks, so I decided to indulge my humorous side and wrote “The Tragically Hip” as my answer instead.  A week later, when the graded exam landed back on my desk, I quickly flipped to the bonus question page to see what the teacher had given my answer.  To my surprise, my answer was marked correct and a smiley face was drawn beside it in red ink.  I smiled.  “Only in Canada…” I thought to myself.

Last night The Hip performed the third of their four-show stint at Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall.  The show was, in a nutshell, 2 hours and 45 minutes of bliss.  The set list was really great.  About one third of each of the four shows’ set lists varied every night, and it was cool to know that we would get to hear songs that others wouldn’t (and vice versa).  Apparently Long Time Running was performed last night for only the second time on this whole tour.  True, due to their enormous back catalogue the band had to leave out many of their well-known live favourites like Little Bones, Nautical Disaster or Grace, Too. But I wasn’t at all disappointed, since every omission was made up for with another equally memorable track.  I appreciated the fact that the songs chosen by the band catered more to their more dedicated fans than to the drunken idiots who only show up to hear all the old hits.  I was so thrilled when the band launched into The Dire Wolf, for instance.  And the little acoustic set midway through the show was a nice touch.

Gord Downie is always the talk of any Hip show, and last night’s was no exception.  I’ve been trying to come up with some words that would describe his onstage antics, but “writhe” and “maniacal” just seem too mild.  I won’t bother describing here all the funny and weird things he did; just go and see them for yourself one day if you ever get the chance.  Or ask me about them sometime if you’re interested.  The rest of the band played really tight all night with no exceptions.  Rob Baker is an amazing lead guitarist.  When he switched midway through Honey, Please from guitar to lap steel, the stand it was on started to collapse but he kept playing anyway and a roadie eventually came out and fixed it.

After the show when I was talking about it with some friends, I was also reminded how much I like the band’s lyrics.  I won’t claim to understand all of the words Gord writes, but they are interesting to ponder and I do find many of his lyrics touch on things or express certain thoughts or feelings that very few songwriters that I know of even approach.  Yet he does it without ever collapsing into clichéd sentimentality or snobby ambiguity.  The lyrics to certain songs, like Bobcaygeon, Ahead by a Century and Fireworks, are actually quite moving love songs in my opinion.  And whether it’s a “forest of whispering speakers,” a “throbbing bladder of light,” or “upholstered silence,” no one finds as many unique and humorous ways to describe things as Gord does.

Here is the set list from last night’s show (this time I needed a little help putting it together).  My personal favourites were Gift Shop, Thugs, and Scared.  All in all, it was one awesome show.

  1. The Depression Suite
  2. New Orleans is Sinking
  3. The Drop Off
  4. Daredevil
  5. Ahead by a Century
  6. Morning Moon
  7. Fireworks
  8. The Dire Wolf
  9. In View
  10. Gift Shop
  11. Love is a First
  12. Coffee Girl [acoustic]
  13. The Rules [acoustic]
  14. Scared [acoustic]
  15. Springtime in Vienna
  16. The Last Recluse
  17. At the Hundredth Meridian
  18. Thugs
  19. Courage
  20. Long Time Running
  21. Honey, Please
  22. Fifty Mission Cap
  23. My Music at Work
  24. Tiger the Lion
  25. Blow at High Dough [extended]

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