Pop Goes The News — For the first time since fans learned that lead singer Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer, Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip performed live Friday night in Victoria.
It was the first show in a summer tour to support the band’s new album Man Machine Poem. Scheduled to stop in nine more cities, the tour will wrap up Aug. 20 in Kingston, Ont.
But, is this the Hip’s last tour?
In May, band manager Patrick Sambrook didn’t correct a reporter at a press conference who asked him how important it was for Downie to do “one last tour.”
According to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, only 10 per cent of patients with Downie’s form of cancer survive longer than five years.
Still, the Tragically Hip has never said this is its final tour.
In announcing the tour and in social media posts that have followed, the band has not used the words “final” or “farewell.” (It has referred to this being “our best tour yet” — implying there will not be another.)
Still, many Canadian journalists have declared that this will be the last time The Tragically Hip performs.
This, according to a source, has upset members of the band.
In May, Sadaf Ahsan of the National Post wrote: “Only a day after announcing that beloved singer Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer, Canadian band the Tragically Hip have announced a farewell summer tour in support of their 14th studio album, Man Machine Poem.”
At Global News, Chris Jancelewicz reported: “On the heels of the announcement that The Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, the Canadian band revealed Wednesday that it’ll be putting on a farewell tour.”
Colleague Adam Frisk also said the band “announced its farewell tour last week, following the announcement of The Hip’s frontman Gord Downie’s diagnosis of terminal brain cancer.”
Andrew Fifield of Metro reported that the Man Machine Poem Tour will be “the band’s final run through Canada” and he called it “the farewell tour.”
CTV News reported on a tour that “the beloved Canadian rockers say will be their last.” (The “rockers” did not, in fact, say this.)
The Canadian Press (CP) was more careful, though. Its report on the tour announcement made no use of the words “final” or “farewell.”
Days later, CP called the Kingston concert “the final show of the band’s tour this summer” and added that “many are speculating [it] could be the band’s last-ever big show, given the recent news that frontman Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer.”
Downie’s hometown newspaper, The Kingston Whig-Standard, reported on the Aug. 20 live stream without calling it the “final” or “farewell” show.
But Canada’s biggest newspaper can’t seem to decide if it’s the band’s last tour or not.
On May 25, the Toronto Star reported online that the Hip had announced tour dates in support of Man Machine Poem without using the words “final” or “farewell.”
But, on May 31, Ben Rayner wrote that fans are “thirsting to see Downie and the lads onstage together one last time.”
On June 8, reporter San Grewal referred to a proposal to host a free concert in Mississauga as a “chance to see Downie and the Hip one last time.”
On June 16, King wrote: “In May, lead singer Gord Downie announced he has terminal cancer, and that this will likely be his last tour.” (Downie had not, in fact, spoken about the tour.)
The Star’s Evelyn Kwong reported on July 14 that a man was arrested for selling fake tickets “for one of [the] Tragically Hip’s last concerts.”
On July 22, the newspaper couldn’t decide if this is the Hip’s last tour or not. King wrote “As the band prepared for its farewell tour…” while freelance contributor Joshua Kloke referred to it as “what may be their final tour.”
Only CBC News has consistently avoided calling the Hip’s tour its last.
On July 22 Laura Thompson and Jessica Wong reported accurately that “in an online statement, the band was careful when referring to the tour, avoiding terms like final or farewell when discussing hitting the road for the Hip’s 14th studio album, Man Machine Poem.”
Maryse Zeidler reported on the Victoria tour kick-off as simply “the band’s first show of their cross-country tour.”
But Amy Judd of Global News declared there will not be another tour.
“The country is getting ready to say farewell to one of Canada’s most iconic bands,” Judd wrote on July 22, “as The Tragically Hip begins [its] final tour in Victoria tonight.”
The report also said “many Hip fans were unable to secure tickets to the band’s final tour” and referred to the band’s “final show” in Kingston.
Indeed, articles about the tour are mostly describing it as the last.
CP went so far as to report “The Tragically Hip begins what is being billed as its final tour” — without offering a source for such billing.
Dirk Meissner of CP reviewed the Victoria show as the launch of “what is sure to be an emotional farewell tour.”
Francois Marchand of Postmedia reported that fans were there “to celebrate The Tragically Hip one last time on Vancouver Island.”
The Victoria Times-Colonist was a little more careful. Reporter Mike Devlin referred to the tour as “…what many are calling the band’s final trek across Canada.”