The Tragically Hip are about to kick off their 2011 Summer Tour tonight at Peterborough's Showplace Performance Centre. Their tour this summer consists of 15 shows (so far) and are a mix between festival shows and 'An Evening With...' shows. So what can we expect?
If you've read any of my work in the past you are probably very familiar with my bias towards the 2-set format (An Evening With...), especially for a band with this deep of a repertoire and a dedicated fan base that routinely goes to more than one show on any given tour. This helps balance between playing the Hits for the casual fans and The Gems for the rest of us. I think it also keeps the band fresher and on their toes a bit more when there's an extensive catalog to pull from on any given tour. Plus it's nice to be surprised from time to time. We all know NOIS and Courage are coming... What's interesting, I think, are the unexpected curve-balls the band throws. Like last tour when the played The Bear. Who saw that coming? Nobody. And they didn't play Cordelia once. You coulda made money betting that one too.
I understand the format that is required for festival slots which is usually one long set with an encore or two. And if you're attending one of these shows you show expect a greatest hits type of affair. Maybe a rare treat or two thrown in. That's nice but not necessary for these shows. The Casual Fan Ratio and First Time Ratio is off the charts at these events. Plus there'll be fans there mainly for another band even though The Hip are headlining. They will be much more likely to know and enjoy songs like Grace Too, Ahead By A Century, Blow At High Dough, Poets, Bobacygeon, 100th Meridian, MMAW, IAGLIYDW, In View, etc, etc. I'm not saying that you have no chance of catching your first Sharks or Fight or Apartment Song or Country Day for that matter, but I think there is a better shot for those at a Hip Specific 2-set show in a smaller venue.
An Evening With...
The 'Evening With...' shows will be taking place in Peterborough, Moncton, Windsor, Dawson Creek and possibly Buffalo, NY. These are traditionally harder tickets to come by and you get a much higher ratio of Hipheads so-to-speak. The band is afforded more stage-time and thus have more room to explore a bit deeper into their song cannon. Plus, as I mentioned, much more of the crowd is familiar with pretty much every song off of every album.
This small summer tour or limited tour before the release of a new album is nothing new. The Tragically Hip's cycle has been remarkably consistent throughout their career. If we take a look at what happened during 2008, early 2006, 2005, 2003, and even 1997 we can discern a bit what may be in store for us as far as new material goes. A younger band tours all the time. An accomplished band with obligations beyond the band does not. The recent pattern has been Album Release > Heavy Touring > Year Off > A Few Shows > Album Release > Heavy Touring > Year Off > A Few Shows...
We are the same was release in 2009 followed by an extensive 'An Evening With..' tour is some fantastic venues. What did we hear in 2008 leading up to the release? Not much. In 7 shows there's only one that lists any songs off of WATS. 07/26/2008 - Pemberton, BC. And I'm skeptical of the setlist listed on thehip.com because it's 38 songs long.
World Container was release on October 17, 2006 and extensive touring started from that point with a run at The Phoenix in Toronto and continued until pretty much the end of 2007. Before WC's release however, The Hip played about a dozen shows in North America and a few over in Europe. During these shows songs such as The Drop-Off, Pretend, Fly, Yer Not the Ocean, LEOTR made their first appearances in the forms we currently know them. In View showed up in the 2 September shows prior to the album's release. Ocean, LEOTR and Pretend actually showed up in 2005.
During limited touring in 2003, IBE songs Gus, Nashville, Copenhagen, You're Everywhere, As Makeshift As We Are, and Goodnight Josephine were played.
Obviously I have no inside access, but I don't mind taking a stab that we will see 4-6 new songs previewed, tried on during this run. What I have noticed from what I've wrote is that not a lot of 1st singles have been previewed before the album release. Did you know the Grateful Dead started playing 'Touch of Grey' in concert way back in 1982 and that it wasn't put on an album until 1987's In the Dark album. It went on to propel the band to a crazy level of popularity and all kinds of people started coming to their live shows to hear a song that the Deadheads had been enjoying for the previous 5 years. The funny thing was that they didn't play it all that often and actually did a multi-night run at Madison Square Garden during the tour following the album's release without playing the song once. This of course mystified the record execs... OK. Sorry about that. I just started typing and well... So don't expect to hear The Hip's next big hit. It is always interesting to hear how these first versions of songs change from their debut to the album version to what's played live going forward.
Alright. That's all I got. If you're heading out to any shows, be safe. Be smart. Get high & share, or be drunk but don't be an ass. Just because someone else is is never an excuse. Have a DD. Pick up your garbage, etc, etc.
Don't forget to check out MJS Designs for cool original gear.
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