Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Tragically Hip live at the Kingston K-Rock Centre

Like millions of other Canadians, I was able to watch the  Tragically Hip's final (?) concert thanks to the CBC (in my case via their Youtube channel).  During the show, I found myself flipping occasionally to WWE's live Takeover Brooklyn special, which served to remind me about some important lessons about how to produce live TV.

Pro wrestling is all about the interaction between the performers and the audience, perhaps more so than any other entertainment medium.  Watching bits and pieces of Takeover, I could feel the intensity of the crowd at the most important moments -- the thunderous crowd pops at the end of matches, during the entrances, and during special moments like the farewell ovation to Bayley at the conclusion of her match.  Bayley spent four months building toward a rematch to regain her title after being streamrolled by Asuka in April, and her spirited loss to Asuka signified a conclusive end to the story.  There's nothing left for her to do in NXT, and although it was never acknowledged on TV, the fans know what happens next.  She'll end up on the main WWE roster soon enough (probably in two days), performing in front of bigger but perhaps not better or more caring crowds.  Tears were shed, the camera panned the crowds so that the people watching at home could feel, see, and hear the reactions, the crowd mics were cranked way up, the commentators stayed quiet and let the crowd tell the story.   

There was very little of that in tonight's Tragically Hip concert.  Plenty of credit goes to the CBC for broadcasting this, and I have no doubt that the six thousand in attendance were losing their minds all night, but you wouldn't have known it from tonight's broadcast.  It was shot just like any other concert.  The camera zoomed in tight on Gord Downie for most of the show, oblivious to the fact that especially on this night, it wasn't about micro-analyzing the movements of the lead singer, it was about the interactions between a great band and its hometown fans.  The band doesn't perform in front of the fans, they perform with the fans, tonight more so than ever.

Many videos have been uploaded to youtube showing the raw exhilaration of these final (?) Hip shows.  Only during the quieter moments of the CBC broadcast (e.g. "Fiddler's Green") did we really get to experience that (discounting the odd, spoken word tributes to Justin Trudeau that came off disturbingly like paid shills for the Liberal Party.  What was with that?)  Also thanks to youtube, I got to see Downie's incredible, white knuckle intense performance at the end of "Grace, Too" in Toronto.  If I hadn't already see that, his similar performance tonight near the conclusion of the concert would have been almost unbearably difficult to watch.  But I had seen it before -- a very well executed bit of drama by a consummate actor.  

During the third encore, and towards the end of final song ("Ahead By a Century"), Downie carefully placed the microphone back on the stand and took a few moments to blow kisses to the crowd.  When the song finished, the band posed on stage, arms around each other, and soaked in the cheers.  Downie looked exhausted.  Happy, relieved, and certainly humbled, but also exhausted.  He probably could have stood there all night, but it really seemed to me that he needed to go home and rest.  Who could deny him otherwise.   

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