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The road to Kingston: a Tragically Hip tour diary

Del Cowie

Follow this post as The Tragically Hip makes its way across the country on its Man Machine Poem tour ahead of its Aug. 20 date in Kingston which will be broadcast live across the CBC network. Keep visiting for updated details.

Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, Ont., Aug. 18

The Tragically Hip's last tour stop before Kingston was Ottawa, where they kicked off the show with "Boots or Hearts" and ended it with "Poets." 


Like many of the other shows on the Man Machine Poem tour, fans from across the country and beyond travelled to see Canada's band. spoke to Brian McCullough, a fan from Virginia who drove 12 hours to Ottawa for the show. "It's kind of a weird combination of a celebration and a thank you and wake, but mostly it's just, 'Go enjoy the music one more time," he said. "They've just played such an important role in my musical life." 

Take a look at the setlist here, and watch a performance of "Nautical Disaster" below. 


FirstOntario Centre, Hamilton, Ont., Aug. 16


After completing three dates in Toronto, the Hip headed out to Hamilton, ahead of their shows in Ottawa and Kingston. The show started with "At the Hundredth Meridian” and ended with “Twist My Arm.” The show also featured Downie reminiscing on playing a gig to zero people in Hamilton.


Watch the Tragically Hip perform “In View” from Hamilton below.


The audience included many diehard fans including Mat Zadvorny, a Hamiltonian who has seen the band a staggering 43 times. Zadvorny’s first date with his future wife, Brooke, was a Tragically Hip concert. He’s also seen the band outside of Canada going to shows as far away as Amsterdam
"A lot of people looked at me like I'm some obsessive fan, but I don't care," Zadvorny tells CBC News. "Yeah, I've seen the Tragically Hip 40 times, and I had 40 nights that kicked ass."
For CBC Radio host Martina Fitzgerald, seeing the Tragically Hip tour has taken her back in time, where Downie was one of her childhood friends in Kingston. Fitzgerald’s story is filled with intriguing details about Downie as a young man, but her mention of English teacher Judi Wyatt gives us some insight into the songwriter Downie is known as today.

“I truly think you can draw a straight line from Mrs. Wyatt to many of the literary references in his lyrics. She encouraged us to read challenging books, think deeply and behave ethically,” says Fitzgerald.

Here is the set list from The Tragically Hip’s show in Hamilton


Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ont., Aug 14

Gord Downie performs with the Tragically Hip at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on August 10, 2016.

(Gord Downie performs with the Tragically Hip at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on August 10, 2016. Photo by Mike Homer)

The Tragically Hip played the third Toronto show of their Man Machine Poem tour on Sunday night.

Watch the Tragically Hip play “Ahead By a Century” at the third Toronto show of their Man Machine Poem tour.


You can find the set list for the show as posted by the Tragically Hip on their Twitter feed below.


In the audience was Tragically Hip superfan Eric MacKenzie from Ottawa. The show represented the sixth he has experienced on the current tour, with his first being the tour opener in Victoria last month. Given the issues that surrounded the availability of Tragically Hip tickets for the shows when they first went on sale, MacKenzie, who has now seen the band over 30 times, has proven his commitment to the band.

"It was a real blessing. I know there was a large ticket fiasco that ensued, but my wife and I were diligently trying," said MacKenzie in an with CBC Toronto’s Metro Morning last Friday. "So we just really lucked out."

Realizing early on that the shows were featuring different playlists, MacKenzie sought out to experience as many shows as possible on the tour.
"Every show has been so special and unique that it's something that it's just so worth taking advantage of."

Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ont., Aug 12

On Friday, the Tragically Hip played the second of three shows in Toronto.

One particular highlight of the show was the performance of “Bobcaygeon,” which features the local friendly lyric “that night in Toronto.”

The line elicited a loud singalong and an extended cheer from those in attendance.


Downie’s last words as he left the stage were eloquently captured by CBC’s Talia Schlanger.


Here is the set list from the second Tragically Hip show at the Air Canada Centre.


Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ont., Aug 10

Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip performing on stage Wednesday August 10 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip performing on stage Wednesday August 10 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. (Photo by Mike Homer)

The Tragically Hip played the first of three shows at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre in front of 20,000 fans last night.
There were many show highlights according to those in attendance.


CBC Radio’s Emma Godmere noted the reference to the Toronto Maple Leafs in “50 Mission Cap” took on added significance given the venue of the show.


As promised, Stephen Dame, who runs the Tragically Hip’s most complete online information site, made the trip from Cape Breton, N.S.


Watch the Tragically Hip perform “Three Pistols” at last night’s show:


Here is the set list from the first Tragically Hip show at the Air Canada Centre, according to the group's Twitter feed:


Again, as he has on every date of the show, Downie took to the stage with bandmates Paul Langlois, Johnny Fay, Gord Sinclair and Rob Baker while wearing a metallic suit designed by Toronto’s Izzy Camilleri. Downie has also been wearing hats by Karyn Ruiz, owner of Toronto-based Lilliput Hats during tour dates.

"I like to feel there's a piece of me up onstage," Ruiz told CBC News. "It was really emotional when I first saw him wearing the hats and receiving these really eloquent texts from him telling me he loved them."

It was Tragically Hip Day in Toronto, as proclaimed by Toronto Mayor John Tory. In a video posted to YouTube on the day, staff at Sunnybrook Hospital got together to sing the Tragically Hip’s song “Courage”  to thank Downie and his bandmates for their support, as well as others who have donated to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research.

Some of the proceeds from the tour are being donated to the Sunnybrook Foundation to support cancer research.

Downie’s doctor, James Perry, is touring with the band and he spoke to CBC News about the boost the Tragically Hip’s singer is receiving from the audiences on the tour.

"If you want to know how Gord's doing, go to a show," Perry said. "I don't know where he [gets] the energy from, he draws it from the crowd and he's such a pro. He said if they were not performing at their best, they wouldn't be doing it."

Budweiser Gardens, London, Ont., Aug 8

The Tragically Hip’s Man Machine Poem tour reached Ontario on Monday night, with the group’s first show in the province landing in London.
The Hip started the show with “Opiated” and ended with encore song “Fiddler’s Green,” from 1991’s Road Apples.


Watch the Tragically Hip perform “What Blue” live in London, below.


Take a look at this set list posted to the Tragically Hip's Twitter feed.


Next, the Hip travels to Toronto for the first of three shows at the Air Canada Centre.

Hip superfan Stephen Dame  will be making the drive to that show from his vacation in Cape Breton, N.S. Dame is the longtime curator of, “a fascinating labour of love” that provides explainers and exhaustive research on the Hip, yielding something new for even the most ardent fan.

Consequently, CBC Music’s Andrea Warner says Dame is the band’s biggest fan. Read his story here.

MTS Centre, Winnipeg, Man., Aug 5

The Tragically Hip began the Winnipeg date on its Man Machine Poem tour by playing “At the Hundredth Meridian,” a song title that CBC News noted is named after a longitude that runs through Manitoba.

After ending the show with “Ahead by a Century,” Downie received a standing ovation from the crowd, captured by CBC’s Jill Coubrough.


Tragically Hip fan Rory Young saw the Tragically Hip for the 37th time at the show and brought his 12-year-old daughter along to see the concert. Young described the energy in the room as the Hip performed.

"This show was about emotion. I thought the walls were going to crumble when Gord walked on stage. He could have read the phone book out loud and it still would've been a great show," said Young.

According to a CBC News report, Jennifer and Greg Beaulne drove from Thunder Bay, Ont., to Winnipeg to catch the show. "Tears were shed, people danced and a great time was had by all. Thank you to 'Canada's Beatles,'" said Greg.

The night was particularly special for Joanne Schiewe, who has been diagnosed with glioblastoma, the same type of cancer as Downie. She wasn't sure she would live long enough to see the show. "[For Joanne] seeing Gord Downie fight on to keep doing what he loves to do, to keep on at his normal level of amazing, was absolutely inspiring," her partner, Jared Spier, told CBC News.

Watch a CBC News video of the Tragically Hip performing in Winnipeg, below.


And here is the set list from the show, as shared on the Tragically Hip’s Twitter feed:


Saddledome, Calgary, Alta., Aug. 3

The Tragically Hip played its second show in Calgary and continued to attract multi-generational audiences to the shows, often in the same family. Starting off with "New Orleans is Sinking," the band closed out the night with "Wheat Kings" and "Courage." 

The full tracklisting for the show is below.


The lyrics of "Wheat Kings" are discussed in Paul Haavardsrud's article "Do the most Canadian song lyrics belong to the Tragically Hip?" In the piece, Haavardsrud argues "at the risk of homerism" that the song contains "the archetypal Canadian lyric" with "Late breaking story on the CBC/ a nation whispers, 'We always knew that he'd go free.'"

The Hip also shared its performance of "Machine" from the second Calgary show on its Twitter feed.


Meanwhile, the larger significance of the Tragically Hip's tour continues to grow, especially for those who are impacted by a similar health condition to lead singer Gord Downie.

Winnipeg lawyer Darren Sawchuk, who plays in Tragically Hip cover band 59 Divide has, like Downie, been diagnosed with terminal cancer and spoke with CBC News about his relationship to the band. 

Sawchuk credits the Tragically Hip for writing the soundtrack to his life. "When you hear lyrics to 'Ahead by a Century' … really, those that are given a warning signal that you only have a certain amount of time left, you do what you can during that time to make the most of every day," he says.

Sawchuk hopes to be able to join Downie onstage when the Tragically Hip play Winnipeg.

Additionally, fundraising efforts being organized by Tragically Hip fans in conjunction with the band's summer tour are making a significant impact on the money available for brain cancer research in this country, according to Downie's doctor.  "We don't have a final estimate of what the magnitude of the money will be, but my suspicion is it's going to be our ice bucket moment — as it was for ALS in the past," said neuro-oncologist Dr. James Perry.

Saddledome, Calgary, Alta., Aug. 1

CBC's Drew Anderson reported from the first of two shows in Calgary being held at the Saddledome and found some passionate fans who hold lead singer Gord Downie in high regard. "Gord is like Jim Morrison of the Doors, but Canadian. He's God," said a clearly excited Darren Pfingsttag from Creston, B.C. "He's the best man ever. If you don't listen to the Hip, then you're not Canadian. You might as well go back and live with Donald Trump."

Here's a taste of what you're missing if you're not at the Tragically Hip show tonight.

Posted by CBC Calgary on Monday, August 1, 2016

Here is the set list for the first Calgary show on the Tragically Hip's Man Machine Poem tour.


A CBC News interview with two Calgary superfans who attended the show, including one man who has attended 39 Tragically Hip concerts, talked about how the crowd picked up and motivated Downie during the show.


Rexall Centre, Edmonton, Alta., July 30


The set list for the second Edmonton show was noticeably different from the one for the first show at the Rexall Centre. Many fans of the Hip remarked in the comments on the Tragically Hip's Twitter feed that it was the best set list of the tour so far.


Rexall Centre, Edmonton, Alta., July 28

The Tragically Hip play Rexall Arena in Edmonton, Alta. on July 28, 2016.

The Tragically Hip plays Rexall Arena in Edmonton, Alta., on July 28, 2016.©Mike Homer

Downie took to the stage for the first of two shows in Edmonton, wearing a Jaws shirt beneath his now-trademark shiny metallic suit. Watch a clip from the Tragically Hip performing at the show below.


Take a look at the set list for the Edmonton show below.


Rogers Arena, Vancouver, B.C., July 26

Ahead of the Tragically Hip's second Vancouver show, reporter Maryse Ziedler caught up with Tragically Hip fan Ryan Nicholson, 43, a film and TV makeup artist attending the show and who was diagnosed with a similar brain cancer to Gord Downie. "We're doing the same thing," Nicholson said of Downie. "I want to tell him that he's amazing." Robinson underwent emergency surgery following the diagnosis and is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Nicholson has been blown away by Downie's performances on the tour, saying that everyone who is diagnosed with brain cancer has their own way of dealing with the diagnosis. "You have to go for it, you have to fight," says Nicholson. "And I think, for him, that's what he's doing."

Watch the Tragically Hip perform at its second Vancouver show below. 


See the tracklist for the second Vancouver show below.


Rogers Arena, Vancouver, B.C., July 24

The Tragically Hip continued its tour at Vancouver's Rogers Arena and from the outset CBC News reporter Chad Pawson noted the band changed things up, playing "Twist My Arm" to start the show. In Victoria the song that kicked off the show was "Boots or Hearts." Downie's suit was a different colour too: this time his onstage attire was turquoise. He'd soon change into a silver version of the suit.

During the show, the crowd stayed enraptured by the performance and sang along to Hip favourites.


At the end of the show CBC News reporter Lien Yeung captured the moment when Gord Downie's bandmates left the stage to allow him a moment alone with the crowd.


The set list from the first Vancouver show, posted on the Tragically Hip's Twitter feed, is below.


Save-on-Food Memorial Centre, Victoria, B.C., July 22

The Tragically Hip perform in Victoria, B.C. on July 22, 2016 to open their Man Machine Poem tour.

The Tragically Hip performs in Victoria, B.C., on July 22, 2016 to open its Man Machine Poem tour. © Mike Homer

The Tragically Hip kicked off its cross-country tour for its latest album Man Machine Poem. 7,000 people were in attendance as the Tragically Hip began its tour in Victoria, B.C., on July 22. Lead singer Gord Downie, who has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer took to the stage in a pink shiny suit.

"Downie appeared to be in good form, offering the audience an energetic performance that quickly quelled any apprehensions the audience may have had about what shape he's in," wrote CBC Vancouver reporter Maryse Ziedler. Ziedler also wrote that aside from a few minor missteps, "fans were treated to a powerful performance of all-Canadian hits punctuated by Downie's two outfit changes into silver and gold suits."


Ziedler's report also featured fans who had travelled from across Canada to be at the opening night of the tour, including Chris Mushumanski of Vanderhoof, B.C., who drove his car more than 1,000 kilometres south to Vancouver and took a ferry to Victoria to catch the show.

Below is the set list from the Victoria show, posted to the Tragically Hip's Twitter feed.


More to explore:

How to watch the Tragically Hip's Aug. 20 concert on CBC

Hip Check: a Tragically Hip listening party

The Tragically Hip's top 10 songs: readers' picks