The Tragically Hip Sunday July 26, 2009 At Shelburne Museum
Words by Tim Lewis.
The weather looked set to break our lucky streak at Shelburne Farms. It was so perfect for Jackson Browne and for David Byrne that it seemed the predicted rain and or storms would happen. I had a plan to ride with Mike and pick up my brother. Robbie said he would buy Mike a ticket but that was slow to come together. I knew Don was coming but had not heard from him. Shortly before it was time to leave Robbie called to say he wasn’t going. He did not have tickets yet. I read that morning the show was sold out. Everything was bleak but maybe it would work out.
Robbie said he would buy Mike’s ticket anyway. Mike’s gotten all of us into a lot of shows and is having some of it come back to him now that he’s still out of work. Brian at work was looking to sell a ticket or two. I called work to get his number and got him at home. He said he would sell one and use the other for himself. We set up a place to meet at the museum and were off. Mike and I swung by Robbie’s to pick up cash. We drove on to Shelburne road to pick up my brother Ken. We got to the museum a little before 5 for the 6pm starting show. We met Brian and traded cash for a ticket and in we went. We wandered close the soundboard and ran into Mike’s old roommate Scott. He said he had chairs set up close to the stage and we could use them. We made camp about 20 feet from the stage and thought about how good life was feeling at the moment. I called Don. He was on his way.
So far the rain had held off. There was a smattering of drops on the windshield just before we pulled in and right before the gates opened it momentarily misted. Otherwise the sky was a light pleasant shade of gray.
Ken, Brian and I went for a beer. I made the mistake of only having one. Oh well, it worked out anyway. We went to check the merch tent but nothing was grabbing me and with my financial situation leaving me feeling like a dire wolf, I thought it best to take a pass. Brian headed back to camp as the hill filled with people. Ken and I skirted the top of the venue and found some food at the Skinny Pancake. It was almost show time so we made our way back to the front.
We settled in for a bit. There were a bunch of people standing in front of the stage and about 10 feet away were the first row of lawn chairs people brought in. There was a bit of space in between when the first signs of the band appeared on the side of the stage. The Tragically Hip picked up their instruments and within a couple of notes of the opening New Orleans is Sinking the space filled with people and the entire crowd rose to their feet. They stayed that way for the full 3-hour show.
New Orleans was played fast and at full volume. What a way to begin. The band was calm and steady as usual and they had a keyboard player for the tour (which I kind of expected considering how much keys are on the new album). Gordon was over the top animated. He was sweating heavily even in the first song. A roadie tossed him a balled up cloth to wipe the sweat. Gord bounced it off his hand a couple of times then caught it and wiped his face and tossed it to the audience. This was repeated several times per song throughout the show. He was bouncing around and looked like he was having the time of his life.
After New Orleans he said he had to say something to the audience. At the beginning of the first song he said he saw a dad and his kid come running out the port o potties as if the dad was saying come on son, something important is happening. He then introduced the long song from the new album, the Depression Suite. I’ve been listening to it a bit and it’s been slow to catch on, but that night in Shelburne I found I really did want to know how it ends. What a cool tagline for a nine-minute song.
Gord made a remark about the people who were fenced into the beer area. He seemed bemused by the fence but noticed they did not seem to mind. He kept on the theme throughout the evening even at one point saying that the people outside the fence should try and take those inside, after all they have money and have been drinking. I think it was around the set break he said everyone who is inside the fence had to come out and everyone outside had to go in.
They followed up with the bright rocking pop song In View. I remember when it was first released things were slow at the call center. I kept singing the chorus of I’ve been meaning to call you, I’ve been meaning to call you, then I do. Things picked up quite well at work after that. The cool breeze of the song perfectly met the beautiful summer afternoon. The sky was gray but a nice, light, kind of gray.
I was feeling like after a couple of relatively new ones they should go classic. The slow swirling sound that followed coalesced into Gift Shop and I was in heaven! That song is pure bliss to me.
They eased off the throttle for a bit for fun relaxing versions of Ahead By a Century and the new title song Morning Moon, then cranked out an extra heavy rocking Poets. I never know how much I like that song, but that night’s version was pure fun. They followed with Gord saying we were all like the Labrador rescue dogs going into the water to save people. The played a darkly shimmering version of the Dire Wolf.
After smoldering for a song they brought back the full rock and roll fury for a rousing Yer not the Ocean. They took it over the top with a ripping version of At the Hundredth Meridian. They proved the muscle of the new album by following with Love is a First, which continued the blistering rock and roll into the set break. Oh my God it was brilliant. I felt like it was one of the best Hip sets I’d seen and we still had another one to go.
I took a chance on trying to use the port o potties and grab a beer. The line was long but workable for the first. The line was way to long to get a beer. Oh well. I made it back to our spot in time to chat for a bit and notice the stage set. They brought out a small percussion set and some chairs and the band returned to the stage with an acoustic set. They opened with Thompson Girl. I really like that song and had not heard it in ages. They played it extra sweet. They followed with Coffee Girl which I like from the new album but wasn’t as into it that night. It was ok, but almost a bit too cleaver. They wrapped it up by saying they never used to play this song but on the last couple of tours they seem to play it a lot. Fiddler’s Green followed and was as emotionally packed as ever. I remember the day they played the old Higher Ground and did a Q&A. Someone asked about Fiddlers but Gord said it was so personal they might never play it again. Apparently some things change.
They swept away the acoustics and strapped on the electrics and lit up the audience with the opening strains of Grace Too. The band savagely attacked the middle section as the audience screamed along. People were jumping and dancing and singing. Bliss reigned.
They brought it down a tiny amount with the elegant Bobcaygeon then revved it up higher than any previous point in the evening as they rocked us Fully Completely. I was on fire as I screamed out the final verses and then was stunned into quiet grace as I realized they were following it with Escape is at Hand for the Traveling Band. That song is like a best friend to me and I sang it word for word. It was also the last thing that was remotely slow for the rest of the set.
They again showed the muscle of the new album with The Last Recluse and brought the audience into synch with Courage. We all sang along. The human, tragedy, consists in, the necessity, of living with, the consequences, under pressure, under pressure. Courage was our word.
They followed with Family Band, which is one of my faves from the last album. The lyric is so fun and the song has a high-energy quirky drive to it. Up next everyone sang along to my Music At Work. The next song started a bit slow and soon the familiar rhythms of Blow at High Dough pulsed out. It was great to hear that song in Shelburne. Shelburne is my hometown. I’ve been singing: they played a concert once, in my hometown, a lot in my head ever since. It was the last song in their set and is one of the all time classics from the early period. Everyone was thrilled to be there for it and it closed the set perfectly.
The crowd roared for a bit and was rewarded with the band retaking the stage for another seriously rocking new song. Frozen in My Tracks stood up to the intense barrage of the second set, but the magic came as the second and final encore took shape. It was another one that started slow and then suddenly it became Locked in the Trunk of a Car. The crowd lashed out with machine revving tension and rocked it hard. Everyone knew the song and was elated. It was a perfect end to a perfect show and also had the beautiful metaphor thing going, as we would soon be locked in our cars in traffic on our way out of the parking lot.
As the crowd slowly began to disperse Don and Alex appeared. They had been trying to make their way down to us but got stuck. We hung out and chatted a bit before climbing the hill towards the parking lot.
Ken, Mike and I found the car and got in the impossibly long line to get out. Like the two previous shows it was an infuriating 15 minutes of sitting and inching and then suddenly it was clear and we were on our way. When we left the museum parking lot it was a little after nine. The show was done, and beautiful, and perfect each song after song. I had been a bit worried that Ken would not know much of the band but he did know 100th Meridian and had a good time with the rest. We dropped him in Shelburne then took a nice short ride home.
This post was originally published by Tim Lewis at his personal blog, https://timstriangletribune.wordpress.com.