On July 17th, 2015 The Tragically Hip headlined the Ottawa Bluesfest for the last time. sigh. They opened the show with Grace, Too; of course they did.
Armed with will and determination, and grace, too.
The last time they played the Bluesfest (in 2013) Grace, Too was their second song of the night, same for the time before at Bluesfest 2011. I just did some stat-crunching and it turns out I’ve seen them play the song a lot. I was blessed to see The Hip twenty-six times and at eight of those shows they played Grace, Too as their second number. At four of the shows I attended they played it in the third slot and this show was one of four I was at where they opened with it, including the first time I saw them play Grace, Too way back in February of 1995, just a few months after it was released.
Oh, and speaking of that, I was fortunate to snag an unwarranted pass to The Tragically Hip’s private friends & family album release party for the Day for Night record and one of my most vivid memories from that experience was being struck by Grace, Too every time it came around on the album that was semi-subtly looping over the house speakers in the Kingston billiard hall. Of course I had never heard the song before but then I had never heard any of the songs on Day for Night before (which became my favourite of their records), but Grace, Too is the only track that stands out from that first listen.
(As a matter of fact, it seems that since Grace, Too was released they’ve played it at all but three of the shows I’ve been at, a trio of omissions that includes both times I saw them at Metropolis in Montreal [in 2006 and 2009], which is rather curious.)
The bass hook that starts it off is just so darn hook-y; it’s quiet and subdued and yet it somehow demands attention. And on top of that delicious vibe Gord Downie pulls you in even further with that opening line, He said “I’m fabulously rich…” It’s a great line, but somehow it was even sweeter when he would switch out the line at live shows with: He said “I’m Tragically Hip…” as he did on this night.
Resplendent in white pants, a pale dad-shirt and a grand white cowboy hat that he donned after opening the concert under a sinister black cap, Gord was almost glowing in stark contrast to his dark-clad musical brethren, each of whom kept mostly to their designated spots while Downie prowled the stage as Canada’s highest-paid mime. And he was good at it too. From two hundred feet away anyone could clearly see Gord mount his invisible motorcycle or battle his insolent microphone stand. He kept his verbal extrapolation-solos to a minimum at this concert and while I longed for more off-the-cuff poetic grinding he kept the crowd easily entertained with his near-constant physical commentary while the other four guys kept the canvas tight.
And all the while it rained and rained, and nobody cared.
The Hip were doing a Fully Completely tour, revisiting their third album on its twenty-fifth anniversary and playing it in its entirety, starting about a half-dozen songs in. I can go either way on the play-the-whole-record thing and in this case I landed firmly on the “Oh yeah!” side. Sure, it ain’t no Day for Night but c’mon, what a great album! Courage, 100th Meridian, Fifty-Mission Cap, Locked in the Trunk of a Car…I mean, freakin’ Wheat Kings was on Fully Completely. So of course all of those songs were played at this show, and the rest of the record too.
The band left the stage after finishing off Fully Completely, returning for a four-song encore that they capped with their other bass-intro delight Blow at High Dough. It was a fantastic bookend to an awesome concert and everyone involved seemed pretty well satisfied with the evening, the persistent rain bedamned.