A Trip to Massey Hall

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Saturday May 16th, 2009

The Tragically Hip @ Massey Hall
The Lead-up and The Show

I have spent many a Victoria Day Weekend (May 2-4) camping at one of Ontario's Great Lakes Beaches or at the Come Together Music Festival just south of Owen Sound freezing my ass off, but always having fun. Yesterday's weather here in The Big Smoke was blustery and grey for the most part and there's no doubt that if it wasn't for The Hip, I'd be up at one of those venues again where this "Spring" weather would have had even more of a bite. For any of you cursing this weather more than me, I hear there are good deals for Mexico these days.

I had some house keeping to take care of and some errands to run before we headed down to my sister's new place. She has a roof top patio with skyline views and weather permitting, we were going to take advantage of that. Our group was three couples with one Hip virgin. Two had floors right near the sound booth and the rest of us were up in the right side balcony right up front. We were on the side that was standing all night and thank god, not on the other side with the sitters. I am getting ahead of myself though...

My better half and I rode The 504 King Car from Dundas West station to my sister's place loaded down with beer and Angus burgers. Both were obvious choices. She had Corona and I had Heineken. We went import on the beer since we were going domestic on the music. It's all about balance ya know.

Everyone was there when we got there a little late. I couldn't pin this one on my girlfriend this time though as she was quite efficient getting out the door. We had a TTC driver that refused to go above 20km/h. REFUSED. Never have I seen a streetcar go into old lady mode like this one. When a red light would turn green our driver would stand there and let every single car that was behind him go around and pass us before moving off the line. WTF? I said that out loud. I was advised not to swear in front of children but FUCK, let's go dude! Anyways, 50 MC was playing as we walked in the door and all was once again well with the world.

We went right up top to the deck. Breezy with gusts is how I'd describe it. With long sleeves or a light jacket, one was more than comfortable. There was one pair of gloves at the table but that may have been an over reaction. Yer Favorites was spinning in the CD player and the beers were going back fast and smooth. The meat hit the BBQ about an hour after our arrival as we listened to The Hip and just shot-the-shit. The sky was constantly changing throughout the afternoon. At first it was a menacing grey sneering down at us knowing that we were at its mercy. It was a Hip day and the clouds obviously didn't know this. The sun was battling hard to break through and bit by bit it happened. By the time we had to pack it in around 7pm the sun was out. A sign for sure.

"Ride the 501 to fun, fun, fun." That's what the Queen Streetcars should say. We rode the rocket down Queen St W at a much faster pace than our trip to the Sister's. Much faster. We hopped off at Yonge & Queen and things were lively downtown. Downtown Toronto is always busy and there's a lot of fun to be had show or no show. Of course on this night there was a show and as we walked up the block towards Massey Hall random chants of "Hip, Hip, Hip" could be heard. So could the cries of "Tickets...tickets. Who's buying? Anybody selling?" Fucking scumbags. Get a real job.

We tucked into a little nook on the corner of Yonge and Shuter out of the wind to haul off on the one-hitter a few times. We were asked by a scalper if we could spare some bud. For free. I mean here's a dude trying to take as much as possible off the naive general public and he's hoping for some charity. Faaaaaaawk UUUU! How 'bout you give us some free tickets? No, eh?

We went inside with about 20 minutes to go before the curtain rose. I had to shoot downstairs to the washroom. I am getting to know this building well. It's a good thing because this was about the point I was feeling as if I had taken one too many hits off the pipe. I made my way up the stairs and then up some more. This was my first show off the floor. 4 of us were close together in the same section while the other two were down on the floor. I was by myself one row ahead and a few seats over from the three ladies. I found my seat but immediately caught the Pasties. Water was needed. The discovery of a bar/lounge up on the 2nd level was pretty exciting for me. I walked in Dazed & Confuzed and reconnected with my Crew. We scored beverages surprisingly quick and managed to put back a couple quick beers. As soon as the flicker we hit our seats.

The Show

This is off the top of my head. I'm just going to write what I remember without consulting a setlist so please excuse if I leave something out or get the order wrong. Here we go...

The Depression Suite
started things off. I think this is going to be a staple in the live shows for some time. A lot of people still don't know it that well. The casual fan I guess. I was thinking as they played about how special this song is going to be when 1) everybody gets to know it really well and 2) when we are not guaranteed to see it every show. It will a real treat when we don't see it coming. I think about Nautical Disaster back in the day. Not your standard verse>chorus>verse>chorus song but when we (the fans) got to know it, well you know the rest. As it stands, The Suite is either going to open or close the first set of 95% of the shows on this tour which is fine by me.

In View
. This is one of my bathroom songs, but when it's played so early I need to mentally prepare to "hold it". The crowd was digging it and hey, I'm always about giving 100%. Coffee Girl was next and that was my other bathroom break song. I don't know how they can ever play this song different than they do. Maybe they will come up with something, but right now if you've seen it once, you've seen it 100 times.

Twist My Arm
. Fuck yeah! Was that fun or what? Kudos to the band and the crowd. The balconies were swaying and the place was jumping. I love watching the crowd when everyone is into it. Fantastic.

Good Life build energy and tension similar to a coil, but there is never a full release. Love it. Morning Moon is a beautiful tune. Great lyrics and should be a staple for some time to come. New Orleans was New Orleans. They don't hit the Waaaaaaaah waaaaaaaaaaah's anymore. A shadow of its former self. A 3 1/2 minute version might as well be dropped. Give it an honorable death. Just my opinion. The crowd was loving it, but I remember some versions...

Honey, Please. I like this song. I don't really have anything else to add specific to this version. Tiger the Lion rocks! Putting this back into the setlist on a regular basis has been great. I've seen both Tigers this week and they were executed quite nicely.

Redemption. That's what this Meridian was all about. Monday's was easily the worst version I've ever heard live. Zero heart. Zero soul. This one however, made thing better. This one was meaty. This one build the tension before letting it all hang out on the release. The jamming by the band was stellar. I don't know if they felt the same way about their previous 100th Meridian, but the difference was like night and day. Check it out yourself. Join The Hip Tracker.

Love Is A First closed the first set. This one gets going pretty good. At this point it's so new that it's a lot of fun. Gord is a real character doing this song. I guess he is every song. One of the greatest performers it's ever been my pleasure to watch. Have you ever seen him not give 110%? I haven't. Not once. There was a Canada Day show in 1994 up at Molson Park in Barrie where the crowd was tossing water bottles at Daniel Lanois and Gordie was a little surly with the fans. I think he walked on stage and said, "This one's for the assholes who like to throw bottles." The Hip went on to play what would look like a dream setlist today, but they played most of Day For Night before it even came out. We were lost. But he gave'er.

Set break. We bust outside for a smoke. My girlfriend say she might love Gord. Yep. This was her 3rd Hip show. She is from San Francisco and thus didn't not grow up having ever heard of them. Her first 2 shows were down at Fort York. That's right. Her second show we go down with no tickets and get miracled and the Boys bust out 38 Years Old. Ha ha. I digress...

The acoustic portion of the show begins with a beautiful version of The Bear. Only the third time ever played live. All coming on this tour. The Hip have such a deep catalog. My sister was really hoping for Wheat Kings. Check. Fireworks acoustic worked really well and the crowd was all over that one.

A rip-roarin' Poets opened the electric portion of the second half. They seem to be jamming out on this one moreso than in the past. I like it. I like it a lot. The Last Recluse kind of killed the momentum that Poets built up. I like the song but following Poets just isn't the right spot. Maybe if they had flipped it with Giftshop, which came next, it might have worked better. The pendulum swings!!!!! Giftshop is a fine example of tension and release. The crowd ate it up and so did I.

The twosome that followed made the show for me. A Day For Night combo of Inevitability of Death and Yawning or Snarling. I had just listened to DFN as soon as I woke up and was hoping one of these would show up. IOD had only been played once this tour previous to this show and Yawning or Snarling only twice prior. Both versions were very well done especially the Yawning. Such a cool song.

Yer Not the Ocean followed. My girlfriend really likes this one and delayed here bathroom break just to hear it. Now that's dedication :) I think Struggle is a great tune. It's one of my favorite on We Are the Same and I though it held its own in this part of the set, amid some heavy hitters. Grace, too was rocking and the crowd responded. Remember when they used to come out of the gate with this one? Grace works anywhere in the setlist. My Music @ Work closed the set and for me it was a little disappointing. Far from the best version I've heard. I don't think M@W holds up well as a set closer. Inevitability of Death would have done better here. Or Poets.

Ahead By A Century started the encore. I was reading some threads over at Hipbase and apparently Frozen in my Tracks was bumped at the last minute. They crowd sure didn't mind. They ate that up and asked for more. More is what they got in the form of On the Verge. This was THE one song I wanted to hear this week. The Hip obliged and dusted it off for only the second time this tour. I don't know what I can say that won't sound completely biased regarding this one. I left smiling.

This was a really fun show. First and foremost, because of the people I was with. The vibe in The Hall definitely had a Saturday Night feel. We all had a lot of prep time not afforded to us during the week. The crowd was easily the most lively it's been all week and everyone was feeding of each others energy. The band played great. It was neat to be able to look down on Robby as he was playing/picking the slide. For me just having that vantage point, as much as I've seen The Hip, was great. Gord was Gord. What can you say. He's incomparable and we are all lucky to be able to share in this experience.

Our night ended at St Louis Bar & Grill on King St E. I had the Sweet Asian BBQ wings. I got them with fries which was fine, but they have these onion chips that are similar to onion rings save for the shape. They trump the fries big time and are very good dipped in the creamy dill sauce that comes with all wings. I managed to negotiate a wing trade for one each of Hot and Cajun.

We took the subway home and I crashed soon after. Cheers to the Crew for the good times.

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