Concert Review: The Tragically Hip @ the Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre, 6/29/96

Over the years, I’ve been to many a Hip concert. Big venues, small venues, inside, outside. You name it, I’ve seen it. This, however, stands as both my first Hip show, and only rock concert at a Zoo.

I discovered The Tragically Hip in the Summer of 1995 while working at Budget Rent-A-Car, introduced via a co-worker and a steady diet of Canadian rock radio. The Hip’s album Day for Night had been released in the Fall of 1994, and was still getting plenty of play, specifically the tracks “So Hard Done By” and “Nautical Disaster.” I bought the album (on cassette!) from a record store in Buffalo, and listened to it. A lot. Lead singer Gord Downie has a style that you either love or hate – lots of words, LOTS of words. Though he has often been compared to Michael Stipe of R.E.M., Stipe never really went as far out as Downie has, especially live, where Downie has famously turned five-minute tunes into twenty-minute long stories about killer whale tanks and the divers who brave them.

During my (first) Senior year at BGSU, I started digging into the catalog. I went back one step and bought the album Fully Completely, on CD this time (it may have been my first CD purchase ever, can neither confirm nor deny), and the following May the album Trouble At The Henhouse was released.

At some point that Spring I decided I was going to see this band live, and it just so happened that the band was playing in Toledo that June. I had already decided to stay in Bowling Green for the Summer instead of going home. Unfortunately, most people I knew were leaving for the Summer, which meant I’d be attending the concert alone.

What had been hinted at on the albums was only confirmed with the live show – the band was and is a unique proposition. Combining Downie’s stream-of-conscious lyrical style with Rob Bakers’ melodic guitar leads, Paul Langlois’ steady rhythm guitar and backing vocals, and the simple-yet-effective rhythm section of bassist Gord Sinclair and drummer Johnny Fay. Separately, the band is made of a good, not great, individuals. But together, there sound is wholly unique – epic yet relatable, soaring yet grounded.

The concert firmly cemented the Hip as a Top 5 favorite band for life. After this, I tracked down every album and live bootleg I could get my hands on. It was the first of many Hip shows, and though not the most memorable, is definitely the most important.

Actually, there was one really memorable moment – during the song “Pigeon Camera” early in the set, Downie was engaged in one of his theatric moments, pointing at the sky while singing “Where’s our pigeon camera?” At that exact moment while Downie extended his arm to the heavens and almost as if on cue, a flock of birds flew over. How can you not be a fan after that?

SETLIST
Gift Shop
Grace, Too
700 Ft. Ceiling
Pigeon Camera
Springtime In Vienna
Nautical Disaster
Daredevil
Flamenco
At The 100th Meridian
Butts Wigglin
Fully Completely
Ahead By A Century
New Orleans Is Sinking
Put It Off
Fire In The Hole
Locked In The Trunk Of A Car
Sherpa
Coconut Cream
Little Bones

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