Gord Downie played his final show as frontman of The Tragically Hip. The Canadian rock star, who in May revealed that he had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, played to a sold-out crowd in his band’s hometown of Kingston, Ontario. The show, which was the final stop of The Hip’s “Man Machine Poem Tour,” was also live-streamed to millions of fans.
Gord Downie got emotional during the show. According to the New York Times, the 52-year-old singer also thanked the crowd for keeping him strong.
“Thank you for keeping me pushing, and keeping me pushing,” Gord told the crowd.
— HuffPost Canada (@HuffPostCanada) August 21, 2016
At one point during the show, Gord Downie broke down in tears as he repeatedly screamed “No!” while performing the song “Grace, Too.” You can see Gord Downie’s emotional moment in the video clip below.
— CBC News (@CBCNews) August 21, 2016
For his final turn as The Tragically Hip lead singer, Downie delved into his band’s 30-year discography, including “Nautical Disaster” and “Bobcaygeon” and closed the historic show with a simple “Thank you for that” to his audience before returning for an unheard of three encores.
“We never do third ones,” Gord told the audience.
Fans in the crowd included Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In a live interview with the CBC, Trudeau, a Tragically Hip fan since high school, described Downie’s final show with the band as “extremely powerful” for all Canadians.
“Gord and the Tragically Hip are an inevitable and essential part of what we are and who we are as a country. And tonight we get to say thanks, and we get to celebrate that,” Trudeau said. He also posted a thank you to The Tragically Hip for their “decades of service'” to the Canadian music scene.
On behalf of Canadians, I thank Gord Downie and the Hip for their decades of service to Canadian music. Forever in our hearts and playlists.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) August 21, 2016
Toronto police tweeted that Canada would be closing down for iconic band’s final show. With viewing parties held all across Canada, the day was proclaimed The Tragically Hip Day in Ontario.
— Toronto Police (@TorontoPolice) August 20, 2016
Indeed, while The Tragically Hip never found huge success in the States, in Canada, Gord Downie’s band has long been considered rock royalty. With the support of famous fan Dan Aykroyd, The Hip was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live in 1995, but according to Rolling Stone, Gord Downie was vocal about how little The Tragically Hip’s success outside of Canada mattered to him.
“[Interviewers] always ask us about our success or lack of success in the States, which I find absurd,” Gord Downie once said. “While that is a story of the band, there are so many other stories.”
Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder said goodbye to Downie during his own band’s show in Chicago. The CBC posted video of Vedder paying tribute to Gord and The Hip before segueing into the Canadian band’s song “Light Years.”
“There’s something going on north of the border tonight,” Vedder told the crowd at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. “It involves somebody that we consider a family member just ’cause he’s part of the group of touring musicians we’ve met over the years.'”
“There’s a guy who’s got a band called Tragically Hip,” Vedder continued, before explaining that he met Gord Downie when his band recorded in Seattle.
“So they’re up there, going through the emotions up there. I just want to send them our energy from our gathering up to their gathering up there, and wish the best to Mr. Gord Downie. We love you.”
In addition to Pearl Jam, other rock bands and singers, including Bryan Adams and Rush frontman Geddy Lee, took to social media to pay tribute to Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip.
Thanks to the Tragically Hip for the show you never wanted to end. You broke our hearts in the best possible way. Thank you -RP
— Nickelback (@Nickelback) August 21, 2016
Wishing the best to my friends Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip. #Kingston
— Bryan Adams (@bryanadams) August 22, 2016
— Alannah Myles (@AlannahMyles) August 21, 2016
We salute you Gord @thehipdotcom you came and you played, you put it all on the line, gave us reasons to be proud, well done! well done
— Tom Cochrane (@TomCochraneMUS) August 21, 2016
— Rush (@rushtheband) August 16, 2016
Take a look at the video below to see Gord Downie performing the song “Hey Maria” with Andrew Cash in 1993.
[Image via The Tragically Hip/Facebook]