On May 2nd, 2009 I drove from Ottawa to Montreal to see The Tragically Hip at Metropolis. Although Montreal has a lot of great small-to-midsized venues, when bands come to town that ought to be playing the Centre Bell but wants to play somewhere more intimate they always seem to book into Metropolis. The semi-regular opportunity to see arena-level bands in a nice, 2,000-person capacity balconied theatre easily pushes Metropolis to the top of my preferred Montreal concert halls.
And so it was with The Hip. They were touring their new album We Are The Same but were riding a wave of resurgence since their previous release World Container, in my opinion one of the best albums of the band’s remarkable career. I was in the balcony for this show – for part of it anyway – and from up there I joined my sold-out brethren rocking to classics like Fully Completely, Twist My Arm, and At The Hundredth Meridian and raising my head in reverent bliss during more poignant songs like Bobcaygeon and (especially) Fiddler’s Green.
It was great seeing the guys playing so close to one another on the relatively small stage after seeing them so many times on stages eighty feet wide. It was a situation they tried to recapture seven years later during their final tour. On every night on that legendary run the band created their own intimate space in the centre of their large arena stages, huddling together in a tight little group and rocking each first set olde-school from their imagined tiny stage.
Rewinding to the show at hand, though the Metropolis stage is by no means “tiny” the band were tearing through their set like the young band they once were, only now they were stacked with an endless catalogue of songs played with the confidence that comes with decades of rehearsal and accolades. They even split things up into two sets, taking a midshow setbreak like they surely did a thousand times back in their bar band days. I recall the second set started off acoustic and included that awesome Fiddler’s Green I mentioned and Greasy Jungle along with a new one. Then it was back to the old grind, pumping out high energy fully electric band ragers and crowd pleasers.
And while the classic Hip standards were fantastic, personally I hung on every song they played from World Container, which wasn’t many. In View was great early in the set but Yer Not The Ocean was probably the highlight of my night.
A thousand encores later The Hip finally ended the show after blowing the roof off the place with Locked In the Trunk of a Car. No doubt about it, after working through a period that almost began to approach lacklustre The Tragically Hip were unquestionably back, live and in-studio. To see such a triumphant concert in such a familiar, intimate theatre was a treat and an honour.
I don’t remember if I drove back to Ottawa after the show or not but in all probability I had the foresight to prebook a hotel. It’s not like me to take on the role of ‘designated driver’ when given the rare chance to see The Tragically Hip in a bar.