In their first visit to Winnipeg visit since their headline appearance at Shaw Park last summer, The Hip were in fiery form as always, led by their ever unpredictable frontman Gord Downie.
All eyes were on the quirky poet-singer, prowling the stage in his pork-pie hat, white shirt, tie, and vest, who quickly stripped off his blue jean jacket to perform the opening number, “At Transformation,” the opening track from the Kingston, ON quintet’s new album.
Using his ever-present white hanky for everything from cleaning monitors, stroking his mike stand or enticing the crowd, Downing was anything but boring as the band next moved into one of many crowd pleasers, “Grace Too,” from the quintessential Canuck rockers fourth studio album “Day for Night.”
The band makes nightly changes to their setlist, and have never been known for faithful Eagles-like covers of their songs, so Hip concerts always contain a number of surprises to balance their lengthy back catalogue of fan favorites.
One such pleasant surprise was the addition of “Thompson Girl” to the evening’s setlist, a tip of the hat to Manitoban northerners from the veteran band's’ 1999 Juno winning album “Phantom Power.”
Of course, certain songs are “must plays” at any give Hip concert and their 1989 arena rocker “New Orleans is Sinking” made an early appearance, giving guitarists Paul Langlois and Rob Baker a good workout, while Downie did battle with his mike stand, danced The Frug, or shimmied across the stage as fans, who knew the lyrics (for pretty much every song) inside-out, sang and rocked along.
In the homestretch, Downie pulled out “Wheat Kings,” which references wrongfully convicted ex-Winnipeger David Milgaard, followed by their hit 2000 hit single “My Music At Work” and wrapped the initial set with their 1989 debut single and theme song for CBC’s “Made in Canada,” “Blow At High Dough.”
For their encore, the band return with “Fifty-Mission Cap,” their tribute to Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Bill Barilko, followed by a jammed up version of their 1992 single “At The Hundredth Meridian,” and “The Lookahead,” another new song from their 2012 release “Now for Plan A.”
Cellphones and lighters came out and began waving as the familiar acoustic guitar intro opened their 2000 Juno winning single “Bobcaygeon,” prior to the band’s night closer, their 1991 “Road Apples” single “Little Bones,” during which Downie, who loves to theatrically take kicks and swipes at his mike stand, inadvertently broke his stand into pieces, but soldiered on, using what was left as a baton, and, afterwards, gave it as a memento to a fan – a very Hip gesture indeed.
Full marks go to The Arkells who opened the night. The Hamilton, ON alt rockers performed an upbeat set of retro-pop flavoured originals, that consistently contained a great groove, catchy hooks and great energy.
Led by frontman Max Kerman, the band receive extra kudos for giving a young fan in the crowd the opportunity and spotlight to propose to his girlfriend during their show (she said “yes.”)
The "Now for Plan A" tour heads to Brandon, MB tonight for a show at the Keystone Centre.
See The Hip's official website for more details.
Tragically Hip Setlist:
At Transformation, Grace Too, Gus: The Polar Bear From Central Park, Man Machine Poem, Love Is A First, Gift Shop, Thompson Girl, New Orleans Is Sinking, Escape Is At Hand For The Travellin' Man, Streets Ahead, Ahead By A Century, Poets, Lonely End Of The Rink, We Want To Be It, Courage, Wheat Kings, My Music At Work, Blow At High Dough
Fifty-Mission Cap, At The Hundredth Meridian, The Lookahead, Bobcaygeon, Little Bones