A country comes together one last time for The Hip

An opinion piece, which appeared in the Aug. 11 edition of the Almaguin News

Over the past three weeks many people across the country have been joining the Tragically Hip and frontman Gord Downie for one final hooray.

The Canada-wide celebration of the Tragically Hip hit London this past Monday night and will continue with shows in Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa before culminating with their final live performance in Kingston on Aug. 20.

On Aug. 8 Canada’s most iconic rock band made its way to London, ON one final time and I was lucky enough to be one of the more than 9,900 raucous fans packed into Budweiser Gardens.

As expected it was an energetic, unique, emotional, overwhelming night.

Voices were lost, tears were shed, ears left ringing, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

From the moment Downie and his band mates took the stage the crowd was up, completely fixed on the frontman, immersed in the moment and deafeningly loud.

Opiated started the night, followed by Blow at High Dough and New Orleans is Sinking, before they busted into the new album and played Ocean Next, What Blue and Machine.

Downie, who began the night with a purple suit, accompanied by a white hat and feather, was his usual quirky, spastic self. He belted out every single song – occasionally letting out one of his iconic screams – while strutting and flailing his way around the stage. Even while contending with terminal brain cancer, Downie’s stage presence is mesmerizing and thoroughly entertaining.

After seven tunes he disappeared back stage for a quick break, reemerging with a silver suit and Jaws t-shirt. The ten-minute pause was all he needed to recharge and he immediately jumped back into fan favourite’s Grace, Too, Scared and So Hard Done By.

The unrelenting cheers and upbeat energy continued all night long, as the group cranked out old hits. Poets, Bobcaygeon, Fireworks and Fully Completely had the entire arena on their feet belting the lyrics alongside Gord, enjoying every moment.

For a couple hours Hip fans put the sad, disheartening thoughts about Downie’s impending fate out of their minds and were able to just enjoy the music.

It wasn’t until the third song of the encore, Courage, when it hit me. I consciously made sure I enjoyed every second of that songs, eyes fixed on Downie, knowing it would be the last time I would see him do his thing.

It was an impressive, passionate, courageous performance.

After it all, I had one particular lyric stuck in my head.

“You’re going to miss me. Wait and you’ll see. Fully, completely.”

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