Tragically Hip concert in Victoria had fans cheering, dancing and crying
Band kicked off Canada-wide tour in Victoria with 1st performance since Gord Downie's cancer diagnosis
The entire audience of 7,000 people shot up from their seats and applauded as soon as Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie walked out on stage wearing a shiny pink suit and a white top hat in Victoria on Friday night.
What followed over the next two hours was an incredible performance from one of Canada's most-loved bands, with the enthusiastic crowd cheering and singing along to their favourite songs, and occasionally shedding a few tears.
It was the band's first show of their cross-country tour, which follows the revelation in late May that Downie, 52, has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
The Hip started the show with Boots or Hearts from their 1989 album Up to Here, followed by New Orleans is Sinking and Opiated from the same album.
Downie appeared to be in good form, offering the audience an energetic performance that quickly quelled any apprehensions the audience may have had about what shape he's in. The singer's widely-lauded stage moves were still there, if only a bit subdued.
Downie took occasional short breaks as the band played or as videos of Canadian landscapes were displayed on a large screen above the stage, a roadie handing him a drink out of a thermos as he rested.
I have never seen a man with incurable cancer perform. But what Gord Downie is doing right now is in one word incredible.—@richardzussman
He faltered once through Bobcaygeon from its 1998 album Phantom Power, and missed a few words in Fireworks. But otherwise, fans were treated to a powerful performance of all-Canadian hits punctuated by Downie's two outfit changes into silver and gold suits.
Throughout the evening, the crowd erupted when the band played hits like Blow at High Dough and Poets, often chanting "Downie! Downie!"
And when the mood quieted down for Long Time Running, a few people began to cry.
This is harder than I thought it would be. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TragicallyHip?src=hash">#TragicallyHip</a>—@yyckerr
Downie barely spoke during the more than two hours he was on stage. An hour into the concert, he shared a few words with the audience for the first time.
"Here's one for my good old Dad. He's gone. Shit happens," he said.
At the end of the concert, the crowd roared until the band returned for two encores — Wheat Kings and Ahead by a Century among a few of their last songs.
As the crowd cheered on, Downie stood alone on stage saying, "Thank you, thank you very much. Thank you for everything."
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Fans from across Canada
Fans travelled from across British Columbia and across the country to attend the concert, which started at 8:30 p.m. PT at the Save-on-Food Memorial Centre.
Chris Mushumanski left his home in Vanderhoof, B.C., on Thursday morning and drove more than 1,000 kilometres south to Vancouver, capping off the voyage with a ferry to Victoria.
The longtime Hip fan listened to more than 180 of the band's tunes on the drive to witness "the most historic concert in the history of Canada."
"This is going to be a tough one. No doubt there will be a lot of emotions as the first chord gets struck or when the first drum beat comes," said Mushumanski.
'I think it will be emotional'
Sue Ferguson flew from Toronto to be at the first stop on the tour.
Before the concert, she gathered with a group of family and friends at her nephew's home to enjoy Tragically Hip-inspired wine made by Stoney Ridge Estate.
While the wine was poured before the show, Ferguson said tears may start flowing once the performance kicked off.
"I think it will be emotional, I think he is going to put himself out there with all the energy he can muster," said Ferguson.
Over the next month, the band will continue with their 15-date tour across the nation, concluding with a grand finale in their hometown of Kingston, Ont., that will be broadcast and streamed live on CBC.
With files from Richard Zussman, Greg Rasmussen, and Chris Corday