|Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip headlined a Canada Day concert in Toronto. (QMI Agency file photo)
TORONTO - While the official royal party was holding court on Parliament Hill Friday, a sold-out crowd at Toronto's Downsview Park were basically bowing before one of the country's rock royalty on Canada Day.
The Tragically Hip headlined an impressive but not too exhausting five-act bill with a two-hour set featuring a bevy of warhorses along with a sprinkling of new material from a forthcoming studio album.
“This is for Will and Kate,” lead singer Gord Downie said prior to Gift Shop roughly halfway through the show, one driven as much by the audience's thunderous united voice as by the spastic dancing and poor man's pantomime Downie attempted between his raspy vocals.
At times the audience seemed more exact than the group whose extended intros caused fans to start the second verse by the time Downie started verse one. “This is the echo,” Downie quipped during Blow At High Dough after Grace, Too kicked things off.
The Kingston, Ont. quintet also showed very little rust on some of the slower, gentler nuggets which caused a refreshing sea of cigarette lighters (not cell phone or digital cameras) to illuminate the large concert bowl during the almost obligatory one-two campfire punch of Bobcaygeon and Ahead By A Century. Fiddler's Green was another somewhat somber highlight.
The only lulls were a few new songs the band offered up with Drip Drip and Streets Ahead still sounding like works in progress. Meanwhile Transformations was the strongest of the lot as Downie churned out some of his best rambling preacher moments.
While Poets, In View, Courage and a melding of New Orleans Is Sinking with Nautical Disaster had the desired effect, The Tragically Hip proved their mettle with a rousing Fully Completely, easing into the song before nailing the frantic, guitar-heavy conclusion. The fireworks off in the distant skyline just behind the stage also added a bit of pizzazz to the particular song.
Earlier in the evening, Weezer dazzled the crowd with a set drenched in summery, catchy power pop. Whether on Hash Pipe or Undone -- The Sweater Song, lead singer Rivers Cuomo – who stepped on and smashed a problematic acoustic guitar -- and crew kept the energy high. Cuomo also ran a few times along a security barrier giving high fives to the crowd while sugar-soaked ear candy such as Buddy Holly, Islands In The Sun, Pork and Beans and a surprising cover of Radiohead's Paranoid Android.
Not to be forgotten, Broken Social Scene – playing their first gig with The Hip – did a decent hour's work highlighted by Lover's Spit, Forced To Love, Texico Bitches and 7/4 (Shoreline). The group also brought out Buck 65 to do a decent cover of Funky Boss by Beastie Boys.