The crowd of almost 10,000 people at last night's Tragically Hip concert knew that it would be a special night. The concert was scheduled to start at 8:30 PM, but almost everyone was in their seat early. When the band stepped on stage in a blaze of lights and sound, the crowd roared its approval, the cheers louder than at any concert I'd been to before.
Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip perform in London, Ontario, August 8, 2016.
The Tragically Hip did not disappoint, performing for more than two hours in a high-energy concert capped with an emotional goodbye to their London fans, Singer Gord Downie was perfect. Although everyone in the room was aware of Downie's recent diagnosis of a brain cancer called glioblastoma, his performance was unaffected - he was his normal, musical-genius self.
For a generation of Canadians, the Tragically Hip is the band that wrote the soundtrack to our lives. With a career spanning more than 30 years, including 13 albums, they have been part of our culture since we were little kids. Their songs bring back golden memories of the major events in our lives: high-school dances, summer campfires, times with friends, and even weddings.
The news that a Canadian legend has been diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor has led to an outpouring of support online, including a petition for Downie to be awarded the Order of Canada. The petition currently has almost 70,000 signatures and hopefully will spur our government to act. Downie has also launched the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research at Sunnybrook, a world-leading centre in the research and treatment of brain tumors.
The research is badly needed. Glioblastoma is a rare tumor - only occurring in 2-3 adults per 100,000 every year - but it is one of the most difficult cancers to treat. Even the most aggressive treatment, which is a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, doesn't achieve the results that we need. We've lost several important people to brain cancers, including U.S. politician Ted Kennedy, and O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochrane.
Watching the concert yesterday, I was blown away by Downie's courage. Despite facing an extremely difficult diagnosis, he is giving Canadians the chance to say goodbye. He is using his stature as a way to raise money to help other patients diagnosed with cancer.
The band's last song was Fiddler's Green, a song written as a tribute to Downie's nephew who died as a child. In Irish legend, Fiddler's Green was a place where old sailors would go in the afterlife, a place of never-ending happiness and a fiddle that never stops playing. When the music ended, Downie waved one last goodbye to the adoring crowd and walked off down the tunnel.
Let's walk with him. Please sign the petition and donate to Gord's cause.