Beats Music History

One Year Later: Remembering the Man Machine Poem Tour

A look back at the biggest concert event in Canadian music history.

The CBC Broadcasts … a rock concert?!

Where were you August 20, 2016? If you’re Canadian, you were likely watching CBC’s broadcast of the final Tragically Hip concert.  Even if you had already attended a live show on the Man Machine Poem tour, the televised show was a must watch.  The fact that a live rock concert was broadcast in its entirety without commercial interruption was big.  The CBC doesn’t even do that for the Stanley Cup Final.  Towns, bars and neighbourhoods organized viewing parties because this wasn’t just a put on your comfies and watch in solitude kind of thing.  Tragically Hip fans wanted to gather with friends because for so many people the songs take them back to a time, place or event in their life.  So, where were you?  Who were you with?  When listening to The Hip’s music, what memories do the songs conjure up?

That Night In Toronto

Together with a few close friends, my husband Ryan and I were fortunate enough to see the second Toronto show on the Man Machine Poem tour. It had been a long while since I’d been to a concert – any concert, let alone one that was promising to be this epic.  When the band walked on stage and the music started, it was that familiar rush – adrenaline, excitement, emotion.  In fact, I was surprised by how emotional I was.  The opening song was “Courage”.  Following the news that lead singer Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer, “Courage” held new meaning.

I stood watching the show with Ryan to my right and Simon, one of Ryan’s best friends, to my left.  These two have been listening to The Tragically Hip since high school – around the time Fully Completely was released, so you do the math.  Along with this great group of friends that I was lucky enough to marry into, there have been many memories that relate back to attending concerts or drinking beer by the campfire with The Hip playing in the background.  The music reminds us of who we are and that while things around us may have changed, we are still the same people sharing old memories and making new ones.

Music Brings People Together

The Man Machine Poem tour spurred an ongoing conversation of all things Tragically Hip during the summer of 2016.  My brother Steve attended the Winnipeg concert.  We talked the day after I’d seen the Toronto concert to compare set lists and the show in general.  I mentioned that when the concert began, the band was set up close together in centre of the stage.  As The Hip played through songs from their albums chronologically, the band members slowly spread out from centre stage.  Steve noticed the same thing at the Winnipeg show.  He thought the reason behind this was that The Hip started their career playing small clubs with their earlier albums.  As the show went on, the band played tunes from more recent albums, which were debuted live in arenas and larger outdoor venues.  It was a theatrical display of The Hip’s musical evolution.

Encore

After the live concert all of us were on a high, but we wanted more.  Simon and his wife Diane promptly invited us to a pool party at their home to watch the televised final show.  It was a family event with kids in tow because music education is important!  Our eight year-old daughter can now recognize Tragically Hip songs on the radio.  Mission accomplished.

It was a perfect summer night sitting by the pool with good friends watching the concert projected onto a big screen.  Similar to those summer nights sitting by the lake at the cottage listening to The Hip.  Whatever your personal connection to the music may be, it was no doubt elevated watching as Gord Downie paused to take it all in and express his gratitude to the fans.  The televised show let us relive the feeling of the live concert.  To hear once again the man and the band whose songs embody everything that is Canadian.

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