Nine vintage photos that track the Tragically Hip’s rise to CanRock royalty
When Gord Downie steps onto a stage, he becomes a man possessed. He’s more shaman than showman, warbling, lunging and spewing stream-of-consciousness monologues as if he’s leading some sweaty druidic ritual. His madman charisma was what convinced a record executive to sign the Tragically Hip in 1987 after a show at the Horseshoe Tavern—and it’s the magnetic force that’s attracted fans to the band ever since.
Soon, the Hip will lose that monumental presence: in May, the group announced that Downie has terminal brain cancer. In light of (and in spite of) the news, they decided to embark on a final cross-country tour, which arrives at the ACC tonight, August 12 and 14. To mark the moment, we collected a series of snapshots that trace Canada’s quintessential rock band from the dorm rooms of Queen’s to sold-out stadiums. The pictures show two sides of Downie: the wild-eyed weirdo who shows up onstage, and a bookish and notoriously private poet who enjoys fishing, watching hockey games and writing about small Ontario towns.
1990: Downie taking a stroll while on tour in the Netherlands.
1991: The band accepting their second Juno, for Canadian entertainer of the year.
1992: A band photo taken in New York the year they released their seminal album, Fully Completely.
2001: Downie singing at Music Without Borders, a benefit show for Afghan refugees, at the ACC.
2002: Downie picking what he called “bellybutton lint” out of the Hip’s Walk of Fame star.
2005: Downie auditioned for the role of goaltender Ken Dryden in a movie about the 1972 Summit Series. He didn’t get the part.
2012: To launch their 13th album, Now for Plan A, the Hip played a surprise show in Kensington Market.
2014: The Hip performing at Yonge-Dundas Square.