This is the first time I can ever remember being excited about the opening act just as much, or maybe even more, than the headliner. I admit that although I do love the Canadian indie-rock I am not a really hardcore Hip fan. There seems to be only one kind of Tragically Hip fan, and that is the insanely fanatical, which is good. I like bands that have intense cult followings. I have always known that Rochester was a Hip loving town.
Their latest release, “World Container” is a really solid album. There was a time where I was listening to it fairly regularly, but I guess I will have to admit that it never really caught on with me. “Yer not the Ocean” is a great opening track, and “The Lonely End of the Rink” is solid as well. They played both of those tracks at the show, and I was excited to hear them. Something familiar is always good to hear at a show is always a plus. They also played “Music at Work” which is another tune that I know. Other than that their set was pretty foreign to me. Not to say that their set was not good, it was very good. Energetic, spontaneous and long, the three most important things to any good rock show.
Gord Downie is certifiably a madman. His onstage antics were quite entertaining, flailing around a mic stand, wildly strumming an inaudible acoustic guitar and jumping around the stage like a lunatic and the like. His voice is pretty dead on, very passionate, and he is clearly frontman material, like a Freddie Mercury character, only I don’t think anyone was ever worried about Freddie having a breakdown on stage. It is certainly fun to watch the Hip if only to see what the hell Gord is going to do. It was easy to tell that he truly appreciates all his fans and that they are all having a great time up there.
The guitars were solid, rhythm section was tight and the form of their set was great. They moved from several energetic rockers in the beginning to some more subdued material towards the end. Every time they began a song a varying sized crowd would cheer wildly. Every song is a classic to crazed Hip fans, and that was good to see, I felt like I was missing out to a certain degree. I made a mental note to get to know more of their stuff.
Joel Plaskett I am much more familiar with. He opened with his power trio bringing down the house with the best opening act I have ever experienced. Song after song was a sing-along and Joel’s stage presence is something to be admired, he is quite charismatic on stage, and quite a great guitarist which was a nice surprise. Even missing some of the second guitar parts from the albums Joel managed to fill in the space nicely. I was trying to get a good view of the pedals he was using, especially the one large box that was in front of him that looked to have a large plunger on it, perhaps an old tape-delay or something. His band was tight and the solos were wild, as was Joel as he danced across the stage with the confident swagger of a headlining act. Maybe someday I’ll get to see a full set of his.
His newest effort, “Ashtray Rock” is one of the best albums released this year, and another solid classic rock theme album added to the Plaskett catalog. If you are interested in hearing more of his stuff I also highly suggest “Down at the Khyber”. It is fun to pick out the million ways that he is influenced (i.e. rips off) by Led Zeppelin, but the songs do stand on their own as well. I highly suggest.
For your viewing pleasure I recorded all but one song of the Plaskett set and put them on my youtube. They are here, below.
The concert on the whole was great. Sarah and I had great seats (yes, seats, always a plus) in the upper balcony that were cushy, and on my right side was a wall, which is perfect, seriously. During Plaskett we had a very clear view (hence the videos) of the stage, while during the Hip’s set we had a very clear view of the people in front of us, very drunk and dancing around and/or grinding up against the nearest female. Very entertaining all around. The sound of the venue was pretty good, very loud even though we were way in the back. I need to remember to bring my earlove to the Shellac shows in December.