Terminally ill frontman of Tragically Hip leads last gig

A delirious sold-out crowd attended the final gig by Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, whose lead singer and songwriter Gord Downie has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

The band ended their 15-show Man Machine Poem tour on Saturday night in their home town of Kingston, Ontario, with the event broadcast live on national TV.

The Hip, who have become an indelible part of the country’s national identity with songs about hockey, small towns and Canadian literature, returned to the city where their musical journey began in the 1980s.

Thousands of fans — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — watched the final show at the Rogers K-Rock Centre.

Despite being diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most aggressive cancerous brain tumour, in December, an energetic Downie was in fine form as he and his bandmates played an epic 30-song set loaded with hits and punctuated by three encores.

Downie, who wore a metallic silver suit and hat with a Jaws T-shirt underneath, hugged and kissed his bandmates before they stepped on stage to open with 50 Mission Cap, followed three other songs from the album Fully Completely.

The Hip then segued into songs from their latest album, Man Machine Poem, before running through tracks from their previous records.

The show ended with fan favourite Ahead By A Century.

Downie gestured as if he was sketching a portrait of the teary audience as the band — rounded out by guitarists Rob Baker and Paul Langlois, bassist Gord Sinclair and drummer Johnny Fay — played the final notes of the song.

They then embraced, stood arm-in-arm as the crowd roared, and then walked off stage for good.

Before performing the song Fiddler’s Green, Downie seemed to reference the outpouring of support from fans in the wake of his terminal diagnosis.

“Thank you, people, for keeping me pushing and keeping me pushing,” he said, which prompted a “Gordie!” chant from the audience.

Trudeau’s official photographer tweeted a photo of the prime minister and Downie embracing before the concert.

“Well, you know, prime minister Trudeau’s got me, his work with First Nations. He’s got everybody. He’s going to take us where we need to go,” Downie said from the stage.

“He’s going to be looking good for about at least 12 more years, I don’t know if they let you go beyond that. But he’ll do it,” Downie told concertgoers between songs.


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