Review: The Tragically Hip Provide a Rocking Revival

The Tragically Hip/Live at the Roxy/Mercury
3.5 Out of Five Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Long considered one of the premiere Canadian combos, The Tragically Hip, like many of their brethren, were never as fully embraced as they should have been south of America’s northern border. Whether that will change with the release of this archival live album from three decades past can’t be counted on, but those that appreciate a rowdy, rambunctious attitude ought to come at least a little bit closer in terms of understanding their appeal. 

Certainly, anyone that wishes to fully immerse themselves in an unfettered set of riveting rock and roll ought to find themselves enticed after even a perfunctory listen alone, and given the fact that most of these songs are first-time encounters for most, that will have to suffice. Only the fully initiated will consider this album as it may have been originally intended — i.e. a survey of the band’s greatest hits, or some semblance thereof. The fact that this was recorded in May 1991, precludes any more recent additions to their repertoire, but given the energy and enthusiasm of these particular performances, that’s of little consequence. The sheer sweep of songs such as “Little Bones, “She Didn’t Know,” “Three Pistols,” and “On the Verge” ought to win some new converts based on the veracity alone.

That said, the lack of any liner notes poses a problem for anyone wishing to delve a little bit deeper. Singer Gord Downie’s passing from terminal brain cancer in 2017 ought to have been acknowledged somewhere, as well as the fact that the band broke up following his passing. Some context could have been considered, especially since the album serves to spotlight a band that’s sadly no longer in existence. So too, the legacy they leave behind, both in terms of the influence they had on their brethren and the fact that for much of their career, they were one of Canada’s best-selling bands, is also well worth noting.

It helps matters to some degree that the band introduces several of the songs, adding specific quips and insight into their origins. And with fifteen songs included in this set, there’s certainly plenty of good music to consider. Perhaps someday, they’ll get the full anthology treatment they so decidedly deserve. Until then, consider this a worthy sampler of just what this formidable outfit originally had to offer.

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