Five. That’s how many songs The Tragically Hip were able to rip through before promoters effectively pulled the plug on last night’s Outer Harbor festivities.
They didn’t just pull the wind right out from under the band’s sails, they also kept the audience of 10,000 strong holding on until the very last bite by periodically hinting at the possibility of the band returning to the stage.
Given the unforgiving rage with which the storm proceeded to whip through Western New York during the late evening hours, those in charge made the right choice to call it a wash, but, in the moment, it felt as if everyone had journeyed all the way to Oz only to be told that the wizard was on vacation.
Not all was lost, though, because The Hip did deliver scrumptious versions of “At Transformation,” “Grace, Too,” “Escape is at Hand for the Travellin’ Man,” “Man Machine Poem” and “Love is a First” in the short time the weather gods allotted for them.
The band sounded tight in all the right areas and Gord Downie was performing with every ounce of eccentric genius he could muster, so one can only imagine how magical a complete set would have been.
Even while the rain was in full swing, Downie remained on stage in an attempt to entertain the crowd with whatever random thoughts popped into his head on the spot. He churned out some bawdy banter about Rod Stewart and the alleged meaning of 10cc, which brought levity to a situation getting more hopeless by the second.
In a total masterstroke of musicianship, guitarist Paul Langlois arrived on stage armed with his Gibson Les Paul and joined Gord for an impromptu one-two punch of “Wheat Kings” and “Scared,” which will go down as one of the most memorable concert moments of my life.
Just as Downie finished the line, “I got to go, it’s been a pleasure doing business with you,” the event was officially nixed, and the gathered were left to their own devices in the muddy standstill known as the parking lot.
According to The Hip’s facebook page, the show will be rescheduled for later in the summer and everyone’s tickets will still be honored.
Before Mother Nature opened her big mouth, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals baptized the early birds with a set of smoking Southern rock and R&B tunes that easily could have elevated them to headliner status.
Potter’s flashy guitar work and go-for-broke vocal tactics blended beautifully with the Nocturnals’ ability to build a robust gospel groove from the ground up. They were clearly happy to be in Buffalo and the spiritually uplifting quality of their music made for an ideal way to kick off the evening.
Highlights included “Medicine,” “Nothing But the Water (I),” and a cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” to add even more Canadian flavor to the mix, but it was the fan favorite of “Paris (Ooh La La)” that elicited the strongest audience response.
If last night wasn’t enough, be sure the catch them again when they return to Town Ballroom in September.
As for The Hip, let’s hope they reschedule as soon as possible.