To paraphrase a line from the Tragically Hip’s song “Scared”, Gord Downie made me scared during The Hip’s last performance on the evening of Saturday August 20.
I was scared that I’ll never again see the emotion, the physicality and the distinctly Canadian music of the Tragically Hip live ever again. After Gord and the band announced he had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer back in May and that they were planning one final tour to honour their lead singer – I was scared to even address the loss it would be to this country.
I didn’t want to accept that we are losing Gord, as millions of families across Canada feel everyday when facing the onslaught of cancer on their loved ones. However, over the course of a three and a half hour show and three encores – Gord gave Canada the courage to face it together with him.
After seeing Gord jive, shake and sing on five other occasions – I didn’t think the concert was going to offer anything outside the usual, other than the melancholy of it being his final performance. I was immediately corrected by Gord as he came out with energy, soul and raw emotion that I have never seen from a band who was already known for those attributes.
I found myself wishing the concert would never end and that the 11 million other Canadians and myself could stay in that moment with Gord as he wove his tales of Bobby Orr, Paul Henderson, the CBC, David Milgaard and the Great Plains.
Gord even took the time to use his last concert to try to correct a wrong in society with the way Canada has treated their First Nation’s communities.
And then, during the song “Grace Too”, Gord broke down and dropped his mic in tears. The cameras panned to Canadians filling the venue in Gord’shometown of Kingston where thousands of people were crying. I was crying. Canada was crying.
He didn’t want to leave the stage all night. No one wanted him to leave. That time with Gord that Canada shared with him was on par with Paul Henderson’s winning goal in 1972. It was the culmination of nearly 30 years of Canadian myth making which no artist will ever achieve again in this country.
Gord spoke to all of us and made us feel like one united Canadian people, on this night and every single moment that a Hip song has ever been played on stage, the radio or around a fireplace by the one guy there who knew the chords to “Scared”, “Courage”, “Ahead by a Century”, “Wheat Kings” or any other song that for some reason only a Canadian would know and vehemently defend.
Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip allowed us to reach out to each other, rather close off and he gave an entire country a reason to have “Courage”when he and the rest of us just wanted to sob uncontrollably.
Gord Downie is Kingston, Ontario, he is the CBC, he is the Great Plains, he is Paul Henderson’s goal and he is everything that makes this country the wonderful place it can and will be.
Thank you for the memories and the courage Gord.