On Saturday night, Canadian rock band Tragically Hip returned to their hometown of Kingston for a performance that was nationally televised and livestreamed into arenas, town squares, restaurants, and bars across Canada. The group, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau describes as “an inevitable and essential part of what we are and who we are as a country,” has been on something of a farewell tour since the front man Gord Downie, 52, announced last May that he had been diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer. Last night’s performance was likely Downie’s last, and the musician made his final bow one to be remembered. The New York Times reports that the three-and-a-half hour show began with an audience led rendition of “O Canada,” and ended, after three encores, with one of their biggest hits, a gentle song called “Ahead by a Century.” Prime Minister Trudeau, who was in attendance at the concert said, “This is a moment that’s going to be extremely powerful for all Canadians.”
The band has been recording music since 1988, has received 14 Juno Awards (the Canadian Grammys). As the lyricist for the Hip, Downie is particularly respected for crafting songs that depict the life and people in Canada, including hockey players and small-town figures. The tour, in addition to providing the fans and Downie with a chance to say good-bye, was also an occasion for the group to raise money for a brain-cancer-research fund at the Sunnybrook Foundation.