Canada celebrates, mourns as rockers Tragically Hip say good-bye

Sat Aug 20, 2016 8:50pm EDT
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By Leah Schnurr

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Tragically Hip, the Canadian rock band beloved for songs about local culture, small towns and hockey, wrapped up an emotional tour with a hometown concert on Saturday, giving fans a chance to bid farewell to lead singer Gord Downie, who has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

Known in Canada as simply "The Hip," the band is on what is expected to be its final tour with Downie, 52, who announced his illness in May.

Downie is considered one of Canada's greatest songwriters, and news of his illness prompted an outpouring of shock and support. Towns across the country declared Tragically Hip days.

"Farewell to Canada's greatest rock band," The Toronto Star newspaper said in a headline on Friday.

The band's last hometown show in Kingston, Ontario, has been billed as a national celebration. It was broadcast live, with bars and outdoor venues across the country hosting public viewings.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has said Downie had "been writing Canada's soundtrack for more than 30 years," was at the show.

Trudeau told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp at the event he became a fan of the band in university and called it "an inevitable and essential part of what we are and who we are as a country."

Downie, known for his frenetic stage presence and telling long stories in the middle of songs, has maintained his pace during the tour, clad in custom-made bright metallic suits.   Continued...

Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie performs with band members Paul Langlois, Gord Sinclair, Johnny Fay and Rob Baker at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre to kick off the band's latest "Man Machine Poem" tour in light of Downie's brain cancer diagnosis, in Victoria, B.C., Canada July 22, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Light