One in three Canadians watched a special concert on Saturday night — the final show of The Tragically Hip’s tour across the country.
I imagine most people know that what made this particular concert so important is the fact that the lyricist and singer of the band, 52 year of Gord Downie, was diagnosed with brain cancer in December, a terminal form of which there is no hope of recovery. Given a short time to live, he chose to spend a month travelling from the city of Victoria on the west coast, to the city of Kingston located about 2 1/2 hours drive east of Toronto, giving his vast number of fans a gift of 15 stadium concerts. Tickets for those shows were treasured indeed. ( UPDATE : Sadly, Gord Downie passed away on October 17, 2017, at the age of 53. )
The tour ended in Kingston because this is where the band of five musicians began 30 years ago. This is also where Gord is being treated for his illness. While the venue accommodated only 7,000 people, (including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau), another 25,000 gathered in the city square in that city alone to watch the show which was aired live by the CBC.
That was only one of hundreds of listening parties hosted across Canada on Saturday night, held in private homes, movie theatres and concert halls, culminating in a reported 11.7 million people watching the concert. The show went on for three hours, with three encores and 30 songs performed.
Attendees of the concerts and guests at the viewing parties were invited to contribute to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research, raising $265,000 and counting.
Nick and I, along with our friends Meghan, Andrea and Dean, joined the crowd at The Horseshoe Tavern to watch the broadcast. This is the very place that the band got their first big break in the mid ’80s, after the President of MCA at the time, Bruce Dickinson, heard them play and subsequently signed them to a record deal.
People wrote messages in a book that was sent to the band …
I’ve been to The Horseshoe many times, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen this many people there, nor have I heard such loud cheering in that room before. As Meghan pointed out, it felt strange to clap and cheer for a video, but clap and cheer we all did. The atmosphere was electric.
↑ The crowd at The Horseshoe blending right into the crowd seeing it live ↑
While the evening had a celebratory feel to it, there were also many tears shed, as, of course, the situation is very very sad. I can only imagine how the men in the band feel after three decades of such close comradery. It was heart-breaking to watch them embrace at the end of the show and to watch Gord Downie wave goodbye.
Thanks for reading,