Saturday, August 06, 2022

Live at the Roxy - The Tragically Hip live in 1991

I took delivery of a new CD a few days ago. It's a live album released by The Tragically Hip, of a concert recorded in 1991 - on the 3rd of May 1991, to be precise, at The Roxy in Los Angeles. (They aren't the first band to release a live album recorded at The Roxy, others include Bob Marley, Frank Zappa and Bruce Springsteen. It seems it's the place to record live albums. It was also where Guns'n'Roses played a lot of early gigs.)

This album was released last year in a large box-set commemorating the 30 year anniversary of the Hip's third album Road Apples. The box set also included Saskadelphia, which was salvaged from some 30 year old session tapes. (I reviewed Saskadelphia last autumn.) For a while Live at the Roxy was only available in that box set, but it was released as a standalone album last month. 

There was a sticker on the front of the CD digipak, saying it contains the "killer whale" version of the song New Orleans is Sinking. This refers to a mid-song ramble that the singer, Gord Downie, goes on, while the band play on. In it, Gord tells a story of being a maintenance guy in the killer whale tank of an aquarium who becomes the unlikely focus of a killer whale's romantic interest, and jealousy from the other whale in the tank. It includes a few lines where Gord pretends to speak 'whale' and makes suitable noises. Yes, it's as bizarre as you might be thinking.

The set list is a mix of songs off Road Apples, their second album Up to Here, and there are two songs from their debut eponymous 8 track mini-album. Intriguingly, there are three instances of Gord going off-script during songs and saying or singing lyrics that later appeared in songs on Fully Completely, which was released the following year.  

Highway Girl includes a chunk of lyrics that ended up in Locked in a Trunk of a Car - about hiding a body where police helicopters won't spot it. There are two songs that include lines that later appear in At the Hundredth Meridian, with several lines repeated in the version of All Canadian Surf Club, which closes out the performance. 

Fully Completely was the album that really defined The Tragically Hip, so much so they spent the next few albums trying to write songs that sounded different. The change in pace between Fully Completely and Day for Night, released in 1994, is remarkable. What I find interesting is the way that the band were clearly working with those lyrics well before Fully Completely was released. 

As a final point, that may reveal my level of completist nerdery, I recognised the way Gord said "This is a song called 'Blow me'" to introduce the song Blow at High Dough. It sounded like a bonus track I'd listened to on a CD single. I went and checked my single of Little Bones, and, yep, the live version of Blow at High Dough was recorded live at The Roxy on 3rd May 1991. 

I've always liked that live version, and now I have a copy of the whole concert!

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