Tragically Hip: Live at the Bathouse - Review

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by mrjackstraw

We battled the harsh April weather on a cold blustery Monday night to go and see The Tragically Hip's live HD presentation from their famed Bathouse studio in Bath, Ontario. Somehow it seemed appropriate. Fans from across the nation were invited into The Hip's digs for the first time to see where and how it all goes down. George Stroumboulopoulos facilitated the interaction between the band and us fans who were nestled into theatres across Canada and, speaking for myself, happily buzzed and excited at the possibilities.

The band opened the show standing facing each other in a small front room with The Depression Suite: The Rock, NewOrleansWorld, Don't You Want to See How it Ends?
a track that measures 9+ minutes on the new album made up of the above listed three sections. Keyboardist Jim Bryson joined the band as he will on their upcoming tour. After a welcome from George and the band we were treated to the beautiful opening track Morning Moon.

The cameras began to move through the house and George had a few words with the on site sound engineer as the band members came one by one into this room. Gord went on to relate to those of us in the Movie-aters just what the house meant to him and the band and how they had over time build this nest in which to create.

The opening strums from Thompson Girl could be heard in the background and Gord led the cameras into the Kitchen where they had originally worked out the arrangement for the song. The instruments were stripped, especially the drum kit allowing for a more back-to-the-basics approach to working through songs. As if to demonstrate this The Hip played an acoustic version of Music@Work that I hope they keep. Or at least never let us know what version we might get.

Strombo interviewed the rhythm section of Johnny Fay and Gord Sinclair and they went into how they learned together and what an honor it was to be playing together all these years. Gord also talked about the importance of making each show a stand alone event and how diverse setlists were needed. Thank you Gord Sinclair! I could not agree more and am currently even more excited for the upcoming tour. There was also a huge chalk board on the wall with a list of chores, hotels where people were staying and Jimmy O's phone number. I wonder if anyone called him? Anyways, I think every kitchen should have one of these. Household organization baby!

George Stroumboulopoulos led the camera up the stairs and past a lot of original art pieces from various Tragically Hip albums. There was a huge wall hanging of the Fully Completely cover and the charcoal drawing from Day for Night were in the upstairs hallway. I remember thinking of the old house across from the Ford's Theater in Washington, DC where they brought Abraham Lincoln to die in peace after he was shot. I was there less than a month ago and it was preserved just as it was for all of us today to see. Will the Bathouse ever be a tourist attraction? Preserved as it is today to become one of those wacky Canadian culture landmarks? Aah weed.

Along with bedrooms upstairs for whoever needs to crash, there is also a cozy pool/snooker room. George was in there with Robby, Paul and Gord aka The Three Strings. They shot the shit about band life, working together for all these years and the difficulties of a being in a long term relationship. It was during this point that the first random audience request came in. With just two acoustic guitars and Gord in the room I was thinking the randomness had to be limited to a song like...Bobcaygeon. And so it was. What made this version unique was that Gord sand it while shooting snooker with Strombo. He sat. He stood. He shot. He made a combo shot! All while singing. The game wasn't even close. Strombo got killed. The guitarists had to duck out of the way as they played to accommodate the shooters. Good stuff.

Next we were introduced to a guy who wrote the band as a fan and asked for a job. I should have done that. He's seen everything they've done since 1992 and wears many hats. Fans rarely get to see the so-called support staff of their favorite bands. You gotta feel that along the way these people have influenced little things here and there having an impact on the evolution process. Rock and Roll: You know what I'm saying! I didn't get his name so feel free to let me know.

Above the garage is a new area to the Bathouse that the band refers to as The Loft with lots of space for the band to throw down. The band plays Coffee Girl followed by The Last Recluse and both sounded great and should have nice careers inside the Hip's cannon. Back we go to audience requests and the call come in for Escape Is At Hand For The Traveling Man. Giddy up! Feel free to play this one whenever I'm in attendance. That's 3 from Phantom Power if you're keeping score at home. Love Is A First comes next and from my point of view is poised to become a live monster.

Another random fan request is honored in the way of Courage. Strombo mentions that this is his and the crew's request as well causing me to raise an eyebrow as to the randomness of these random requests. Whatever. It's out of my hands. If it was in my hands they would have played The Luxury. Ho ho. Gordie mentions a store in Kensington Market here in Toronto called "Courage My Love" but says he couldn't say that so he changed it to "Courage, my word".

My favorite song came next. Track 5 on We Are the Same: Now the Struggle Has a Name. This one's a keeper in my books. Beautiful, beautiful song. At the end of the song Gord looks out the window and the camera pans back to the outdoor fire pit depicted on the album cover. We are done. As the credits roll the band goes into another song. I'm not sure which one.

Thanks to the band for giving us, the fans, a little glimpse of your world. It's like we finally made it into the secret clubhouse. The 2009 tour should be fantastic. There is some great new material here that the boys will be working with and the addition of a touring keyboardist will bring more textures to the music and allow for some new arrangements to some older material keeping it fresh for us and them.

Live From the Bathouse - Setlist:

The Depression Suite
Morning Moon
Thompson Girl
Coffee Girl
Last Recluse
Escape Is At Hand For the Traveling Man
Love Is A First
Now the Struggle Has a Name

"Don't you want to see how it ends? The door is just starting to open."
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