British Columbia

Tragically Hip concert in Victoria had fans cheering, dancing and crying

Thousands of fans cheered, danced and cried as The Tragically Hip gave an energetic performance in Victoria — the first show of a cross-country tour that follows the revelation frontman Gord Downie, 52, has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

Band kicked off Canada-wide tour in Victoria with 1st performance since Gord Downie's cancer diagnosis

Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie performs with band members Paul Langlois, Gord Sinclair, Johnny Fay and Rob Baker at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre to kick off the band's latest Man Machine Poem tour in light of Downie's brain cancer diagnosis, in Victoria, B.C. (Kevin Light/Reuters)

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. 

The Tragically Hip kick off their cross-country tour

6 years ago
Duration 1:02
Victoria performance was the first since it was revealed frontman Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer

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. 

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.

Fans began to cheer and applaud as soon as Gord Downie walked across the stage at the Save-on-Food Memorial Centre in Victoria. (Chris Corday/CBC)

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."

The Tragically Hip's Victoria concert at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre was sold out. (Madeline Green/CBC)

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, drove 1,000 km from Vanderhoof, B.C., to see the Tragically Hip concert in Victoria on Friday, July 22, 2016. (CBC)

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.

A van parked near the concert venue for the Tragically Hip's show in Victoria. (Stephanie Mercier/CBC)

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.

The Ferguson family bought this specially-themed wine from the Tragically Hip website and had it delivered to Victoria to enjoy before the concert. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

With files from Richard Zussman, Greg Rasmussen, and Chris Corday


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