KINGSTON, Ont. _ The Tragically Hip mixed fan favourites, newer songs and some politics on Saturday night during the final show of their “Man Machine Poem” tour.
Lead singer Gord Downie, who started the show wearing a metallic silver suit and hat with a “Jaws” T-shirt underneath, hugged and kissed his bandmates before they stepped on stage at the K-Rock Centre in the group’s hometown of Kingston, Ont.
Minutes earlier, as the raucous sold-out crowd waited for the band to emerge, an impromptu rendition of O Canada broke out and a banner reading “Thank You Prime Minister Downie!” was passed around the arena.
The band immediately gave fans what they wanted to hear, starting their set with four straight hits from the classic album “Fully Completely:” opener “50 Mission Cap,” followed by “Courage (for Hugh MacLennan),” “Wheat Kings” and “At the Hundredth Meridian.”
The Hip then segued into their latest album “Man Machine Poem,” with four tracks including the single “In a World Possessed by the Human Mind.”
Before “Machine,” Downie launched into one of his trademark onstage rants, calling out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in the crowd for the show. Trudeau’s official photographer tweeted a photo of the prime minister and Downie embracing before the concert.
“Well, you know, prime minister Trudeau’s got me, his work with First Nations. He’s got everybody. He’s going to take us where we need to go,” Downie said from the stage.
“It’s going to take us 100 years to figure out what the hell went on up there,” he continued, “but it isn’t cool and everybody knows that. It’s really, really bad, but we’re going to figure it out, you’re going to figure it out.”
Many anticipate this will be the band’s final tour, given the recent news that Downie is battling terminal brain cancer.
Before performing the “Road Apples” song “Fiddler’s Green,” Downie seemed to reference the outpouring of support from fans in the wake of his diagnosis.
“Thank you, people, for keeping me pushing and keeping me pushing,” he said, which prompted a “Gordie!” chant from the audience.
After playing 21 songs, Downie and his fellow bandmates – guitarists Rob Baker and Paul Langlois, bassist Gord Sinclair and drummer Johnny Fay – embraced and prepared to retire for a pre-encore break. Downie was left alone on stage to take in the roaring ovation.
After returning for a few more songs, Downie again spoke about his fondness for Trudeau.
“Thank you to the prime minister for coming to our show, it really means a lot to all of us,” he said.
“We’re in good hands, folks, real good hands. He cares about the people way up North, that we were trained our entire lives to ignore, trained our entire lives to hear not a word of what’s going on up there. And what’s going on up there ain’t good. It’s maybe worse than it’s ever been, so it’s not on the improve. (But) we’re going to get it fixed and we got the guy to do it, to start, to help.
“Thank you everybody. Thanks for listening to that. Thanks for listening, period. Have a nice life.”