Emotions have been high amid Hip devotees across the country since July 22 in Victoria, when the beloved rockers kicked off the tour — their first since revealing in late May that frontman Gord Downie has been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive, incurable form of brain cancer.
At each stop on the 15-date jaunt, Hip lovers have cheered, danced, sung along and shed tears as the band performed a changing setlist of favourites, from Poets to Ahead by a Century to Courage to Long Time Running to Bobcaygeon.
Famously active onstage, Downie has delivered a somewhat subdued version of his memorable moves and took occasional short breaks. Still, one of his biggest fans — his neuro-oncologist Dr. James Perry, who will have attended all but one of this tour’s concerts — said the singer-songwriter has been impressive on tour (some proceeds of which will be donated to the Sunnybrook Foundation to support cancer research).
“It’s absolutely electric,” Perry told CBC’s Metro Morning last week. “There have been no issues medically. He’s done, and they’ve done, better than I could have possibly imagined and the crowds are evidence of that. There’s just so much joy.”
Though the band has refrained from describing the tour or Saturday’s show as their last, Downie’s diagnosis has nonetheless united many Canadians to celebrate the Hip and Downie’s contributions to the country’s cultural fabric.
With Kingston’s Rogers K-Rock Centre able to hold fewer than 6,000 people, most Hip fans are planning to tune into Saturday’s concert via CBC, which is broadcasting and streaming the show live and commercial-free online, on television and radio.
Viewing parties are also being held across the country — from Yukon’s Marsh Lake Community Centre to Saskatoon’s Capitol Music Club to Winnipeg’s West End Cultural Centre to Victoria Park in Charlottetown — as well as by Canadians and ex-pats in Rio, London, Los Angeles and even Mexico.
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