Story and photos by Meghan Wels
Downtown Oshawa was brought to life on Saturday, February 6th to the sweet sound of Canada’s own Tragically Hip. The infamous “wheat kings” took over the GM Centre for what was only their second visit to the venue since it opened in 2006.
The show began with the Arkells, another Canadian band, who got their start in Hamilton, Ontario. They played a fantastic set with a mix of songs off of their first album, Jackson Square, and their latest album, Michigan Left. Fans went wild for the Arkells, especially while playing their hits such as Kiss Cam, The Ballad Of Hugo Chavez and Whistleblower.
With the band’s top-notch performance and the charismatic stage performance from lead singer Max Kerman, the crowd seemed to love the Arkells pre-show, or at least it held their attention while they sat anxiously awaiting Gord Downie and the guys to take the stage.
As soon as Kerman belted out the last few lyrics in Whistleblower, the crowd knew it wouldn’t be long before they’d be singing along with Downie to their favourite songs.
An almost deafening volume of screams and shouts filled the small stadium when the lights came up again and the Hip appeared on stage. They started with At Transformation, a song off their new album, Now For Plan A, which was released this past October. The song was released as a single, so it was pretty well known to the fans and a decent start to the show.
Though the set list did include a number of fan favourites such as Ahead By A Century, Poets, and New Orleans Is Sinking, it felt like the audience was constantly on the edge of their seat waiting for the band to play something they really wanted to hear. I felt a bit robbed of re-living my high school memories through the handful of classics that did not make the cut when it came to putting the set list together.
On the other hand, the performance did not lack entertainment. Gord Downie does not disappoint when it comes to putting on an incomparable stage performance. With his quirky personality and his questionable but hilarious “dance moves”, he really knows how to pump the audience up and get them involved in the performance. There’s nothing like listening to the man carry on a conversation with himself in the middle of a guitar solo.
The show really picked up for the Hip’s encore performance, which featured a bunch of classics including 50 Mission Cap, which thrilled the crowd every time “The Leafs” were mentioned, especially because there was a game going on at that very moment. And the ever-popular Bobcaygeon had everyone in the room throwing their hands in the air for “That night in Toronto.”
Whatever the show seemed to be lacking at first was certainly made up for in the encore performance and had fans on their feet and dancing when they closed up the show with Blow At High Dough. It was the perfect song to give the audience one last chance to dance before they packed it in for the night.
All in all, it was a great performance by both bands and definitely lived up to expectations. Two decades in the business and the Hip seem to only be getting better. Even after the show had ended, the streets of downtown Oshawa were flooded with people in search of their cars, and all that could be heard over the traffic was buzz about how great the show was and what was the best song of the night. A sign of a successful show is when it continues to be talked about after the stage lights go out.