This week, while I was traveling in Toronto and North Bay, Ontario there has been talk of a national event. It has been mentioned on every radio station that I have listened to, talked about by our tour guide, and pop up t-shirt carts have started selling commemorative apparel. It is not for hockey and it is not one the biggest MMA fights in the world and it is not for the Olympics. It is for a band.
The Tragically Hip are playing their last concert ever in their hometown Kingston and it will be on multiple broadcast television channels. Lead singer Gord Downie has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and will be saying farewell to the stage tonight.
I have been trying to wrap my head around a band’s farewell concert being broadcast equivalent to the way we broadcast the President’s State of the Union address on CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC in the States.
The Tragically Hip are a national treasure in Canada. They have been around since the 80’s and without reaching fame in the US they have reached ultimate celebrity in the Great North.
From my American perspective their level of stardom is mind blowing. I have yet to pass a bar that is not advertising a viewing party for the Hip on the same night as UFC 202 and Canadians love MMA. I have even heard it called Tragically Hip Day, but I have not confirmed that.
In the States we have been blessed with thousands and thousands of world class musicians and it would be impossible to call one our national band.
I was trying to think of any band, if hit with the type of tragedy as the Hip is faced with, would garner this much national attention. Enough to cause a major network to change their programming and air their performance live.
Here is the list that I was able to come up with after some conversations with friends.
Maroon 5: After hitting the national stage with their first album “Songs About Jane” and Adam Lavine staring in The Voice he could probably draw the attention of NBC with his relationship with the network. I am not sure that they have been around long enough to demand multiple networks covering the show.
Aerosmith: Even without playing a show together for years. If something were to happen to Steven Tyler it would draw the nation’s attention. Like Adam Lavine, Tyler may be able to draw the network he already has a relationship with, but I don’t think it would be covered on multiple channels.
Bon Jovi: The east coast might come to a complete stop if something happened to Bon Jovi and he was forced to play only one last show. I am not sure it would be as detrimental to California as New York and Jersey.
Beyoncé: I know she is not technically a band, but it would change the feel of the music industry, the way that Michael or Prince’s passing did. She might be one that is loved enough to get a farewell tour broadcast nationally.
Justin Timberlake: This is the one. Being from Memphis and living in LA, JT has coast to coast appeal. His appearances on SNL and roles in movies transcends him beyond his music career. But a farewell concert would draw as well or better than a Super Bowl.
That is my list. I would love to hear yours. Once you get past the morbid thought of giving your favorite performers brain cancer, it is an interesting conversation to have with your friends.