On Friday night the CTV network aired the Long Time Running documentary I just wrote about. After the movie ended, the network aired 22 minutes including clips of old interviews and other footage of The Tragically Hip and Gord Downie. (I was very shocked during the CTV broadcast when they mentioned the Secret Path would be aired on Sunday night on CBC. Usually rival networks will not mention programs other channels.)
On Saturday night, Hockey Night In Canada started with old clips, Hip music, and Ron Maclean speaking about Gord Downie. Later in the program during Coaches Corner Don Cherry spoke about how much Gord Downie meant to him, and about the time he was featured in the music video The Darkest One.
On Sunday night the Secret Path concert was aired. The show begins with footage showing Gord travelling by bus along northern Canadian highways, then Gord being greeted by members of the Wenjack family. The concert backing band, who are all friends of Gord, and are a who’s who of the Toronto music scene, is introduced: Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene, KC Accidental), Dave Hamelin (The Stills, Eight And A Half), Kevin Hearn (Look People, Corky and the Juice Pigs, The Cousins, Lou Reed, Barenaked Ladies, Thin Buckle, Rheostatics), Charles Spearin (Broken Social Scene, Do May Say Think, KC Accidental, Valley Of The Giants), Josh Finlayson (Skydiggers).
I was happy to see the joy that is exuded by Gord Downie before the show. He happily smiles for photos with fans, many of whom are survivors of residential schools, and jokes and acts goofy. Much of the footage I saw of this time showed Gord as a frail victim of his disease, but he was in good shape this evening.
Last year I wrote posts about both the Secret Path album, and the CBC airing of the Secret Path video clips/discussion. I enjoyed the music on vinyl as well as on the program. The theme of the album is of a young, indigenous boy (Chanie Wenjack) that runs away from a residential school and dies alone in the wilderness trying to get back to the father he was taken away from. Before the concert begins, a blanket that belongs to Chanie is laid over a chair in the front row. The recent performance shown on Sunday was very special. The 3 concerts were the last things Gord Downie ever performed in. The darker theme really hits home while the camera pans out over crying audience members. Many may not have known Chanie Wenjack personally, but can relate to others that were taken, mistreated and died over the years. The track Here, Here and Here was a real highlight of the evening capped off by Gord’s voice breaking down from raw emotion, Kevin Drew looking up to the heavens and the video screen showing a picture of Chanie Wenjack, and the words `For Chanie 19/01/54-22/10/66.` How fitting that the airing of this show was on the 51st anniversary of his death. This song is capped off by a standing ovation, and Gord saying “Sorry family, but this will get things going.”
After the performance Pearl and the Wenjack family join Gord and band on stage to offer a few words. Chanie’s 18 year old great niece gives thanks to the Downie family for bringing her family together. Pearl sings a healing Cree song for everyone, then breaks down in tears, and receives a consoling kiss from Gord Downie.
I had remembered one review of this show when it occurred last year. It did not put the evening in a good light. I was leery before I watched this show. I didn`t want the last thing Gord did to not be great. However, I thought the footage shown was amazing. Gord`s voice was great. He was in wonderful spirits, and the backing band was amazing.
Gord was quoted as saying “If this is the last thing I do, I’m very happy. This is what I want to do.” and “Let’s not celebrate the last 150 years. Let’s just start celebrating the next 150 years.” I won’t be able to celebrate Gord for 150 years, but I will celebrate him and his music for the rest of my life.