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The Tragically Hip @ The Music Hall, Friday, April 24/09

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[blurb]Danforth Music Hall, Toronto - April 24/09

by phishtaper

Friday came quickly. Doors at 6:00, show at 8:00, so we pulled up just after 7:00. We fully expected to see a line-up outside because of the ticket mess and the rigid “ID at will-call, here's your tickets, go straight in please†deal tonight but there was no line-up so we snuck into a local dive bar and grabbed a beer. Wandered back over and went inside. Casual. Good start.[/blurb] A nice merch booth met us inside with what appeared to be a different t-shirt from each of their albums. You could also get the new cd or the new lp as well as some buttons or a $125 hockey jersey. Tempting.

The crowd gathered in the lobby was relaxed but obviously looking forward to the show. Bottled beer had to be poured into plastic cups to enter the hall, which certainly pissed off noone. The venue was being cool tonight, this was going to be a party. The hall started filling by 8:00 and the boys took the stage around 8:15 or so.

Bam! Lights fill the room. The Tragically Hip. We all stand up, not to sit down again. Bam! Guitars and drums kick in. The Depression Suite. Huh? This must be a new one, oh ok, that's right this is a pre-tour, even rehearsal, show but some people seem to really be liking this new song and they are singing along. I havent had a chance to get the new cd, We Are The Same, which only came out three weeks ago so I figured tonite would be my introduction to it. Over the course of the evening they'd play another half dozen tracks off this new disc, (and a lot of people, including us, made sure to buy a copy on the way out). This is a good album. On stage tonite the speaker stacks, set-up and lighting rigs were all perhaps a bit too big for the small venue, but certainly gave us a look at what we should expect on the upcoming tour.

We had great seats. Embarrassingly great. Front row right in front of Rob Baker. Close enough, in fact that it was possible to see him play – really see him play. He's a great guitarist. Intense, seldom smiling, and completely focussed on his instrument. It's really impressive how his guitar licks are so integral to the songs but not up front. Seeing his sound was pretty cool. Seeing his elaborate gold painted, psychedelic finger nails was neat too.

Gord Sinclair and Paul Langlois were on the other side of the stage. Both looked great and seemed to be having a great time too, although Paul looked a bit tired. Drummer Johnny Fay was fun to watch as was some new guy on keys who looked like former Barenaked Ladies Steven Page (but he wasnt). Then there's this other guy in the band named Gord. Mr. Gord Downie. He's a character. The Gord Downie showed up to perform tonight. Intense, sweat-soaked, comical, quirky, lean and fit, and fully completely into the show. He was fuÇking amazing. Whether picking lint off his tailored black pants, twitching his head to the left holding a note, or casually bending down to polish his shoe mid-lyric, he's mezmoring. It's close to impossible not to be glued on him.

Halfway into the first set we saw our vintage Gord Downie when he said “you know, this song was banned in the United States when Katrina hitâ€. New Orleans is Sinking. THE song. The crowd roared. Not the most emphatic, rant-filled version, but it sure lit fires under any asses that might not yet have been fully into the show. After a fantastic Lonely End of the Rink, Gord then began to tell us a story about how when he was in Grade 6, his favourite – very cool – teacher used to arrive at school each day with a canoe strapped to the top of his car. Each day they would ask him what the name painted on it meant and each day he would spin them another new story. (Perhaps this is where Gord learned to ramble?) The canoe was named Grace II (Too) and the namesake song that followed was incredible. The set ended as it had begun 70 minutes earlier with another new song, Country Day.

Set two began with four acoustic songs perfomed at an intimate center stage. Three guitars, one set of hand drums and one seated lead singer, neurotically clutching his mike stand, wanting to, but never bursting off his chair. The first song was introduced as one they had never played, “well, we've played it before of course, just not in front of other peopleâ€. Gus: The Polar Bear from Central Park. Fun song. The short acoustic set also included a very soothing, acoustic version of Ahead By A Century. When they went electric, they exploded with the strongest song of the night, Poets. The 80 minute set ended with the title track from, as Gord lamented, a “very misunderstood albumâ€, Music at Work followed by two encore songs.

The band seemed happy with the show and with us, the crowd was friendly, and the event was really well organized. It's been a couple of years since most of us had seen The Hip and it was clear there's a reason why a lot of people consider these guys the best band this country has produced. Everyone left happy. I did see a few audience video tapers so I know it was recorded but Im not sure when or how to get a copy. Would definately be worth the effort, though.

Guitarist Rob Baker's original Friday set lists:

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Edited by Guest

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