I watched on my phone. A small 5-inch screen because I didn’t want to miss it. I only caught the last few encores, but I caught it, and it was still magical. I forgot it was on. I thought it was the day before mostly for some reason I got confused by the time and date changes. These are things I should know after living overseas for a long time, but I was lucky to be part of it, if only for a few minutes, in Hong Kong. I caught what everyone in Canada was watching: the last concert by the Tragically Hip.
The band started in 1989, but I didn’t get into them until I was graduating secondary school in 1992. What lured me in was the stories song by its lead singer Gord Downie, who is dying of cancer. The concert maybe the last time he may sing and the last time the public may see him on stage. 2016 has been a cruel year for musicians with the sudden deaths of David Bowie, and Prince but with this last tour, the public can share their stories and say goodbye to Canada’s most celebrated band.
The concert, I almost missed, was being put on by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). They were doing it commercial free. There were no adds, not even banner ads. They did this instead of broadcasting the last full day of the Olympics, which would have brought in a ton of advertising dollars for the company, but they showed the Hip for free. The show itself was just the straight concert, no behind the curtain; no cheesy host, no commentary, no interviews – just the show. Whoever did the deal should get an Order of Canada for the deed.
I have only seen the Hip in concert once during the 1993 Kumbaya Festival in Ontario Place Toronto. Festival was held to help raise funds for various HIV/AIDS charities throughout Canada with many bands performing over the day. The Hip were the closing act, and it was magical, and they only played a few songs (Hey Maria, Fully Completely, Thugs, At the Hundredth Meridian, New Orleans is Sinking, Fifty Mission Cap). I don’t remember the festival, but I remember their performance.
What I saw from my phone was humbling. A 52-year-old man, on stage. He was rail thin, due to chemotherapy. He wasn’t as energetic, but again he was undergoing chemo, and he was still on stage for THREE HOURS. There were times when he broke down crying, I read. He kept singing and going. Watching it brought me to tears. I dare say, everyone has been touched by cancer at some point and to see Gord put up on a show and say goodbye was courageous.
The concert was over. I was left just to stare at my screen for a few moments before starting the rest of the day. The concert was over, but the music and memories are forever.