The Tragically Hip is one of those bands that seems like they’ve always been around. You don’t think about them very much (unless you’re a fan) because they’re like the furniture: a solid, steady presence that gives you comfort and entertainment, but otherwise doesn’t get in the way. I’ve never been much of a fan, so this particular band has always been more like furniture in someone else’s house, but I still feel a little bit like the rug’s been pulled out from under me. See, because The Tragically Hip was always there, I always figured I could catch up with them somewhere down the line. There wasn’t any real urgency to listen, since I could always rely on them to be there.
Not so much, anymore, it turns out.
When lead singer Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, he decided to go out on one last tour with the band he’s fronted for some 30 years. Keep working as long as you can, go out doing what you love. That seems to be what musicians faced with the end of their lives these days are doing more and more. (Dying music looks like it’s gonna become a whole new sub-genre, kind of like divorce albums.)
Last night, The Tragically Hip played their last show in Downie’s hometown of Kingston, Ontario. By all accounts, it was an awesome concert. I might go back and watch it someday, after I’ve caught up with the rest of their catalogue. Because just listening to this one tune from their final album, Man Machine Poem, this is one band I should’ve been paying attention to all along.
I’m sorry there isn’t going to be any more of this ageless music. The style is such that it could be perfectly at home in the 80s, 90s, or right now. Americans suffer from a great deal of myopia as far as music from other countries goes, and this Canadian band has been fairly tragically neglected by the mainstream American press. It might even go as far as Criminally Underrated. So there might not be more music coming, but at least I have plenty to discover.
As Gord said to the audience last night, “Thank you for that.”