Music fans of the romantic variety were treated to the best valentine’s day date ever this past week; a fantastic live performance by Canadian rockers the Arkells and the Tragically Hip.
An opening gig for the Tragically Hip was clearly a dream come true for this band of good Canadian boys. The smile on Arkells' frontman Max Kerman’s face was immovable, and his bandmates were equally and obviously tickled at the opportunity. As Kerman said from the stage, there’s nothing more Canadian than touring with the Tragically Hip in the middle of winter. The Arkells are one of those bands you just have to see live to truly appreciate. Though the vast venue that is the Air Canada Centre is a departure from the open air festivals and more intimate settings the band usually plays, the power of their performance still reached every corner of the huge arena. Fans were just as engaged by the music as if they were only inches away from the perfomers, their voices joining Kerman and company’s for nearly every song. And the band was on top of their game, moving energetically around the massive stage, happily bantering with the crowd and belting out every tune with all of their hearts. Aside from the always awesome renditions of “Kiss Cam” and “Paper” from Michigan Left and “The Ballad of Hugo Chavez” and “Champagne Socialist” from Jackson Square, the absolute highlight of the show came in the form of a mini cover. In a stellar display of musical talent, the Arkells launched into the first verse of “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, complete with goosebump inducing acapella harmonies. It was one of those breathtaking musical moments that only happen live, and that only a great live band like the Arkells can deliver.
Closing with their powerhouse song “Whistleblower”, the Arkells proved themselves more than worthy of their high profile opening gig, and left more than one fan wondering how long it would be until the band was headlining their own arena tour. The unspoken consensus? Not long at all.
Some may say it’s a Canadian music lover’s civic duty to see the Tragically Hip perform live at least once, and this writer is inclined to agree. And after that intense opening by the Arkells, the crowd was more than warmed up for the main attraction.
Whether the Hip are your musical cup of tea or not, the band is truly a Canadian treasure. Even those who are not a fan of their recorded music find themselves converted after seeing the Tragically Hip perform live, not only because they always give their all, and more, in every live performance, but because they always entertain, musically and otherwise. The eccentric and always engaging Gord Downie delivered a great performance in his quirky and passionate way. Dancing, sometimes falling, and always moving around the stage, his bowler hat topped and vested attire and Chaplin-esque characterization made fans wonder if they were watching a concert or a silent film. All doubt washed way the moment Downie’s unmistakable voice rang out on the hauntingly gorgeous song “Grace, too.” “Poets” featured one of Downie’s signature rants that no Tragically Hip show is complete without. The classic “Blow at High Dough” closed the already epic set. The only thing that surpassed that was the incredible encore, including songs “At the Hundredth Meridian” and “Little Bone.”
Whatever your relationship status or level of romanticism, the show put on by the Arkells and the Tragically Hip would turn even the biggest skeptic into a hopeless romantic. It was definitely a night to fall in love…with music.