Gord Downie entertains a crowd of at least 10,000 in Spencer Smith Park and lectures the Prime Minister on national television - and we loved him for that.

News 100 blackBy Pepper Parr

August 21, 2016



The number is reported to be between 8,000 and 12,000.

And it was huge.

Sea of people B

It was wall to wall – with the crowd stretching far into the western part of Spencer Smith Park

But it was more than that – it was the looks on people faces and people who mouthed the words to many of the songs.

It was hot.

When Gord Downie first appeared on the giant screen he was in a passageway hugging and greeting the members of his band. The last performance of the Man Machine Poem tour as about to begin and the crowd of 6000 in the Kingston venue went wild.

Downie - shiny blue

He gave it everything he had and went through three costume changes during a performance to be remembered for a long long time.

And then he began to do what he does best – entertained an audience and took them back to better days.

At one point he came close to lecturing the Prime Minister who was in the audience which seemed OK especially when he said Justin had 12 years in office ahead of him

The aboriginal community has always been a concern and a passion for Downie – and he directed the Prime Minister to do something about that as the Prime Minister stood quietly with a look of both awe and respect for the man on the stage. “We are going to figure it out” said Downie.

Sea of people Hip

There were very few open spaces like this – these didn’t have all that good a line of sight.

Some media reported three encores – I thought there were more than that, closer to five. As he left the stage during one of the encores he said: “Have a good life.”

The Tragically Hip music is not the genre I prefer and I didn’t know very many of the songs. I was there to report on the event – and it was amazing – he did three costume changes – each into a different metallic coloured suit and a different hat with feathers. A blue suit, a maroon suit and a gold suit; he was resplendent.

Sombre faces Hip

The audience of between 8,000 and 12, 000 listened quietly and during the closing numbers stood to applaud an incredible performance.

He kept pulling up his trousers – as if they didn’t fit or he had forgotten his belt; maybe it was the equipment attached to his waist.

What was amazing for me was the size of the crowd; perhaps the biggest Spencer Smith Park has experienced. It was a well behaved crowd – and the expected plumes of thick white smock with that identifiable pungent odour wafted over the crowd at the base of the screen.

The simulcast into Spencer Smith Park happened when the ward 2 councillor for the city and the Burlington Downtown Business Association approached city council and asked them to match the $12,500 that the BDBA had raised.  Council said yes and the team that made it happen got into gear.

Television feed Hip

The technical part of the performance went off without a hitch.

They arranged for a small trench to be dug to bury a TV cable feed, along with a back up.  The equipment that made the technically flawless production happen sat under a tent humming away with one at the controls – the technology was superb.  Andie Porecki , president of the Sound of Music said everything technically had gone perfectly.

Emotions showing

The enormity of it all hits Downie – this is the last performance

Downie played with is audience and at the close of one of his encores he thanked the audience for “keeping me pushing”

Two things struck me – the pain in his face at times; the howls that were almost primal and then his ability to shift into a lighter mood.

Sat where you could - police with tasers

You sat where you could; police patrolled an event that didn’t have a spot of trouble. The officers did wear Tasers however.

At the end of one of the encores a member of the band appeared to have to lead him off the stage – didn’t matter – he returned.

At the second to last encore, the moon that was in the eastern sky was muted by drifting clouds; some of the audience was beginning to pick up their chairs and head for home. The concert was well past the 11 pm finish time.

Like the Spring break up on some rivers – the winter ice did not want to let go. No one wanted it to end.


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