The Tragically Hip has become one of Canada's most beloved bands for their hard rock style, their memorable lyrics and their celebration of Canadian culture and history through their music.
And on July 8, they brought all of those elements to Spectra Place in Estevan with a concert in which they not only performed many of their biggest hits, but delivered a feast for the senses, thanks to spectacular lighting and the video screens that were used throughout the concert.
From the moment that lead vocalist/guitarist Gord Downie, guitarist players Rob Baker and Paul Langlois, bassist Gord Sinclair, and drummer Johnny Fay took to the stage, the award winning band had fans cheering, shouting and singing along.
They opened by playing “At Transformation,” which is from their latest album, "Now for Plan A." Their third song, "Streets Ahead," is also on the album. Sandwiched between the two was one of their more enduring hits, "Grace, Too," which was released back in 1994.
Downie was in fine form throughout the night. Not only did he showcase his distinctive and powerful voice that have helped catapult The Hip to the status of Canadian icons, but he played guitar to accompany some of the songs, and he frequently danced, shuffled around the stage, gestured and entertained the spectators when he wasn't singing.
There wasn't much said between the music. They didn't introduce the next song, or offer background on the lyrics. Rather, The Hip kept the music flowing at a steady pace throughout the two-hour concert. And while they played a lot of their new releases, they also incorporated some of their older and most popular hits.
Fans cheered wildly the moment they heard the introductions for “Ahead by a Century,” “Poets” and “New Orleans is Sinking.” The Hip briefly shifted from playing "New Orleans" to "Nautical Disaster," and then returned to playing "New Orleans."
They finished the main set by performing "Blow at High Dough," but the fans weren't keen to go anywhere. They continued to cheer until the band returned to the stage and picked up their instruments for the encore. When Downie said that they would be playing a few more songs, the audience knew that the show was far from finished.
“Music at Work,” “The 100th Meridian,” “Bobcaygeon,” “Courage” and finally “Happy Hour is Here” were included in the five-song encore. After they were finished, band members received another lengthy and rousing ovation before they left the stage.
The Rural Alberta Advantage served as the opening act, and did their part with an energetic 45-minute set in which they showcased their abilities, and introduced their songs to an audience that had many people who hadn't heard their music previously.
The three-piece band – comprised of singer/guitarist Nils Edenloff, drummer Paul Banwatt and keyboardist/precussionist Amy Cole – has been touring with The Hip during tours of Western Canada and Ontario. They are, ironically, from Ontario, but Edenloff is originally from Fort McMurray, Alberta, and his experiences in northern Alberta are reflected in the music.
One of the highlights of the evening came during the Rural Alberta Advantage's final song. They were singing one of Downie's solo tunes, “Canada Geese,” and partway through, Downie joined them on-stage and added his vocals to the performance.
The next concert at Spectra Place will be an appearance by acclaimed Irish vocal group Celtic Thunder on Tuesday, September 17. Tickets are still available.