Grace Too

Gord Downie’s powerful and poignant rendition of The Hip’s “Grace Too”.

No mere drop, he threw the mic, then “You can here the exact moment the country’s heart broke.” I think that sound will resonate for more than a generation or two. He doesn’t walk away, in a display of “Canadian-ness”, he picks up the mic and gently puts it back on the stand.

This is probably the most emotion I’ve ever seen come from a stage, it’s sublime. If it doesn’t hit you in the chest and make your face wet, you might not have a heart.

Grace Too

Please consider donating to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research

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For all my non-Canadian friends who may not know what went down in Canada last night
We were all in Kingston, let me explain…
No dress rehearsal
This is our life

 

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Canada closed down early at 8:30 to watch the last concert by probably the most iconically Canadian band that ever existed.

Emotionally, it was one of the most courageous and emotively charged things I’ve ever witnessed, I was in tears for almost the entire concert, a tour they booked to promote their latest album, released in June, what it turned into was a farewell tour of sorts, a reciprocal one.

“We’re in good hands…”
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau even attended wearing a Hip t-shirt  He was addressed at some length by Downie at the end of the show, he stood up when he was mentioned and mouthed a “Thank You” to Downie.

It was also a message to the country about their Prime Minister, and First Nations people; a very supportive one.

Trudeau spoke with CBC about The Hip

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It was one of the most Canadian events I’ve ever witnessed, The concert was, indescribably emotional, I don’t think there’s anything it can be compared to anywhere in the world. It was almost unbearably tragic yet beautiful and dignified at the same time. If you get a chance to watch it, watch it like we did, without long pauses or breaks, watch it how it went down.

Last December the band’s singer, Gord Downie was diagnosed with glioblastoma. It’s terminal brain cancer, a particularly relentless kind of cancer tumor. He’s had brain surgery and radiation treatment and chemo, is still on chemo and he’ll probably have to be on chemo until his time is up.. Statistically, the best he can last is around 2 more years, that’s the optimistic maximum, so far. Realistically though, he’ll no longer be with us after next spring.

For many years I wasn’t a “Hip-fan”, boy would I catch flack for that. I wasn’t apologetic about it either. I’ve just never been one to build tall pedestals, I’d rather play music than listen passively to someone else do it, it’s a quirk and eccentricity. I like the band now — I loved them last night, and still… I’m going to dig into the lyrics side of the band a little deeper for a while. “Hip-fans”, BTW, are true to the origin of the word “fanatic”.

I have to admit, the Prime Minister was right about one thing, they have been “an inevitable and essential part of what we are and who we are as a country.” And, on Twitter a while back, he posted: “Gord Downie is a true original who has been writing Canada’s soundtrack for more than 30 years. #Courage,”

Yep, when The Hip came on the radio or someone’s shuffling playlist you knew within the first second or two that it was The Hip, even if; like me, you didn’t go out of your way to listen to them. I wish I would have listened closer. I did get to do that last night. I get it now.

First thing we’d climb a tree and maybe then we’d talk
Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday casting a golden light
No dress rehearsal, this is our life
And that’s where the hornet stung me
And I had a feverish dream
With revenge and doubt
Tonight we smoke them out
You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century
Stare in the morning shroud and then the day began
I tilted your cloud, you tilted my hand
Rain falls in real time and rain fell through the night
No dress rehearsal, this is our life
But that’s when the hornet stung me
And I had a serious dream
With revenge and doubt
Tonight we smoke them out
You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century
And disappointing you is getting me down

 

 

Gord Downie has been an incredible lyricist with far more depth than I gave him credit for. That’s what I missed, because I was distracted by what I took to be very monotonous playing by the band. Now I know that this band wouldn’t be the same with any of its members absent. It took a while but they slowly won me over. Gord Downie may very well be one of the world’s best rock lyricists, in the very least he’s a national treasure.Canada’s unofficial poet laureate.

 

 

He’s one of us, he’s ours and last night he owned all of us with every stagger, every spread of his hands, the half smiles and knowing looks…

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…every single tear was repaid a thousand-fold.

The image below is from a moment in a song called “Grace Too”, that they did towards the end of the show, 2nd encore I think, After singing the last verse, he sang the last vocalizations of the song, not words, but these incredibly fierce half growl half screams of angst and frustration, not despair but more like a  wordless but forceful “FUCK CANCER!” kind of thing.  He then threw the mic down forcefully (not a mere drop), which struck the stage with very audible cracking sound, most poignantly described as “the sound of an entire country’s heart, breaking”. (Video in my next blog post)

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Then, he picked up the mic and gently put it back on the mic stand, I don’t think it could have been more “Canadian” a gesture. The band finished the tune and they left after hugging and kissing each other and saying goodby to the audience. Then right before leaving, before he turned his back and walked away…

“Thanks for listening, have a nice life.” ~ Gord Downie

They came back for a third encore of two songs. Last night a 52 year old man with terminal brain cancer shook this country until it cried, and it cried for over 3 hours.

I couldn’t help but notice the irony (in context of their author) in so many of the lyrics being sung, It was pretty much non-stop tears for me, I’m glad I was alone and could cry without any inhibition or distraction. Gord Downie had to do it in front of a country, that’s a bit more than distraction. I almost felt as if I owed it to him, for my easy dismissal of his masterpiece portrait of what “Canada” means.

Just wanted to let you know. This was way more than just music, or just a band, or just a singer-songwriter to Canadians. They weren’t really well known in the US, not because they couldn’t sell out concerts there, but because Canadian ex-pats would always buy up all the tickets. Yes, The Tragically Hip …are that Canadian.

Canadians have always thought of them as “our band”, I get it now.

Let’s honour Gord Downie with the Order of Canada

 

The CBC streamed it live, commercial-free on all its TV stations across the country as well as all CBC radio affiliates and digitally on their website, a three hour+ concert. A lot of people across Canada watched on  big screen TVs in their homes, backyards, boats, projected on sheets, barn walls, in many city parks where residents could enjoy the concert on big screens, together as a community. Canadians around the world, some having to stay up through the middle of the night and into the morning. It was that big a deal. Over 30,000 gathered in front of city hall in Kingston:

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In Bobcaygeon Ontario, a small town (as well as a Hip song title) with a population 3500, they filled the streets:

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Saturday night’s live rendition of  “New Orleans is Sinking“.

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