It takes a long time for me to process things. A long, long time. When big events or changes happen in my life it takes me weeks, sometimes months, to let them fully sink in. I hit play over and over again in my head. Concocting something that probably never existed in the first place.
For this reason I feel I have to write about this now, before it changes. Before misplaced nostalgia makes it into something it is not.
The Tragically Hip.
I’ve been hesitant to read what so many others have been writing about the Man Machine Poem tour. I would like to first decide what I think, what I feel. Before letting other’s words and thoughts infiltrate my own. But I haven’t been able to stop myself. I click on the next link before I realize what I’m doing. Desperately searching to find something that makes this make sense. But they are all just words. Words that will never, could never, accurately describe how any of us feel. And these of course are just words too, so bear with me while I make my own feeble attempt.
In order to keep myself in check, and because I have a tendency to ramble, I will try to keep this geared towards an account of the shows I was fortunate enough to be a part of. Yes, this will be absolutely littered with Hip lyrics. For that I make no apology. Who better to reference when describing how I feel?
After all, this is a little beyond anything I’m used to.
Ottawa: I spent half of the concert exactly as I hoped I would. Fully present, completely in the moment, consciously absorbing what I was experiencing. Clearly entranced. Musically I was impressed. Extenuating circumstances aside, I have not been that entertained by a hip show in a long time. There were songs that were performed for all of us, for the benefit of the entire crowd. Some songs I could have sworn were specifically directed at me. And during one song in particular, Ocean Next, it appeared as if Gord was singing only for himself.
The other half of the show I spent lost in my cloud. Of thoughts on life. Who I used to be, who I am now, who I want to be, and how do I get there? The heavy questions that plague some of us from time to time. Given the situation, I was forced to ask myself if I could face the inevitability of death with so much courage? Is having knowledge of your own demise a blessing or a curse? And of course 21,000 people walked out of that stadium having asked themselves their own personal versions of those same questions.
We get to feel small, but not out of place at all.
Kingston: I will not be able to describe what it was like to be in that city, on that night. But I will say that there was a buzz of excitement that I hadn’t noticed anywhere in Ottawa. Sure, the fans in Ottawa were excited. But also somehow cautious, maybe even nervous. This was not the case in Kingston. 25,000 people congregated in Market Square not because we had tickets to a concert. But because there was no other place we’d rather be. We were ready. Ready to show our support, appreciation, and love for The Tragically Hip. We were able to collectively say Gord, we are here for you. This is what we will do for you. Rather than ask (as concert goers) what he would be doing for us. The city of Kingston made that possible, and I applaud them for a job well done.
Musically I could talk about how they succeeded in giving the entertaining performance that we were all hoping for. With the same songs, energy, quirky stories and dances that have been the highlight of the show for years. It was all there, they delivered on extremely high expectations. But what I really want to talk about are the overlooked moments. The missed lyrics, the quick glances of concern from the band. The far off look Gord had while he stared out at the crowd. The mental pictures you could clearly see him taking. His heart begging his brain to remember this.
And Grace, too. I need to talk about Grace, too.
A man, with terminal brain cancer, standing in front of us screaming an incomprehensible No for all he was worth. Throwing down the mic so he could wipe away his tears and use both arms to hug himself while he sobbed in front of a nation.
You could feel all of Canada stand still.
And then he snapped out of it, for us presumably. And he thanked us. He thanked us. For keeping him pushing. No my friend, thank you. Thank you, for pushing us. You are undeniably, ahead by a century.
To end the night, after the unprecedented third encore, the five of them stood arm in arm in front of the crowd for what we have all assumed will be the final time. Best friends with drinks in their hands and smiles on their faces. Emanating profound happiness.
That is what a life well lived looks like.
And when given the chance to preside over the stage Gord did not attempt a long last heartfelt goodbye, that even he might not have had the words for. He simply asked us to take care of each other.
That, I can do.
That’s what I’m here for.