Last night was Ottawa’s turn to bid farewell to the quintessential Canadian band. It was our turn to rock out with our favourite shadow boxing singer – to see the soundtrack of many road trips, hockey tournaments or cottage weekends with friends, played live in our city for the last time.
Gord (we all call him by his first name because it feels as if he is the whole country’s hometown boy) looked ecstatic as he danced around in his metallic suit and top hat. The band started out with old darlings, “Boots or Hearts” and “Blow at High Dough”, and Gord danced around like a goof but also somehow exuded coolness in a way that only he can.
His dancing wasn’t as lively as in previous concerts and there were no battles with the microphone stand, but that voice was unaffected – belting out songs against the roaring sound of the crowd, who was cheering and singing along louder than any concert I have ever been to.
The crowd got even louder as the band brought out “Wheat Kings” and “Bobcaygeon”, which were greeted by thousands of lighters filling the air.
While I was at the show, I met Chris Nunn, a man celebrating his “” at the Ottawa concert – his 50th time seeing the band live. Seeing as it may be hard to get a quote from the band, I thought that he would be enough of an expert to give me his thoughts on the show:
“The strength this man has to be up there night after night is amazing… He dances, he preens, he works the crowd like he always has… It seems obvious that being on stage performing is his happy place. Maybe he’s able to escape for those 2 hours in time to a place where he’s not sick, where all is right in the world, and maybe we do too. I know that while I’m bouncing around to their music I’m not anywhere else but in that moment”.
As the country prepares for the band’s final show in Kingston tomorrow night, the fans in Ottawa are still thinking of last night’s goodbye – Gord teared up while he reassured us that we should “all carry on, okay?” and reminded us to “take care of each other” before he walked off stage to roaring applause, tears and a standing ovation.
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Even though the show was perceptibly sad, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of contentment for Gord – who was brave enough to grab life by the balls and do one last tour amid health issues that would ground even the strongest of folks. Because of that, he and the band have had the rare opportunity to see their legacy while still alive, to see the support and read the messages from adoring fans all across the country – something that very few get to experience.
It also made me realize that we’re all on our last tour, even though it may last a bit longer than Gord’s. Maybe we should start taking things a little less seriously; we should stay out that extra hour with friends and take that vacation we’ve been putting off because work is too busy.
So thanks, Gord – for the music, the memories, the courage to do this final tour for yourself and your fans, and for reminding us all that this is “no dress rehearsal, this is our life”…
Watch the band’s final show tomorrow night on CBC, or head out to one of the many venues that will be streaming the broadcast: , , , (fundraising party to support the Gord Downie Brain Cancer Research Fund), and more.