Hip lives for­ever in doc

Ottawa Sun - - SHOWBIZ - JANE STEVENSON

Leave it to Gord Downie to end his mu­sic ca­reer — if last sum­mer’s Trag­i­cally Hip Cana­dian tour was in­deed their swan­song — on a high note.

The de­ter­mined Kingston, Ont., band’s front­man, who went pub­lic with his ter­mi­nal brain cancer di­ag­no­sis in the spring of 2016, de­fied all the odds and pushed his long­time band­mates to hit the road de­spite his weak­ened phys­i­cal and men­tal state, ac­cord­ing to the group’s cel­e­bra­tory and poignant new doc­u­men­tary, Long Time Run­ning (name af­ter a Hip song).

“Don’t tell Gord he can’t do some­thing,” says drum­mer Johnny Fay, who along with Downie and the rest of the The Hip is in­ter­viewed ex­ten­sively by the film­mak­ers af­ter their cam­eras crossed Canada with the group on their Man Ma­chine Poem trek in the sum­mer of 2016.

Hip fans will en­joy not only the be­hind-the-scenes footage of Downie get­ting ready for each night’s show on the trek (right down to his un­der­wear) but the en­tire group’s col­lec­tive mem­ory of their 30-year per­sonal and pro­fes­sional jour­ney as one of Canada’s most beloved rock bands that started back in high school.

The Hip’s rhythm gui­tarist Paul Lan­glois re­calls how his best friend Downie wanted him to be there for his post-brain surgery ra­di­a­tion and chemo­ther­apy treat­ments and the singer says he liked to lis­ten to the Water­boys and the Bee Gees (the lat­ter, he ad­mits, a guilty plea­sure).

And the doc­tor who op­er­ated on Downie says the “best case sce­nario,” for his sur­vival is be­tween four to five years.

This is not to say that Downie, one of the coun­try’s most re­spected song­writ­ers and live per­form­ers, fa­ther of four and men­tor to many a Cana­dian mu­si­cian, may not defy the odds yet again.

At the be­gin­ning of his re­cov­ery, Downie could barely speak, let alone have any mem­ory of the dense, poetic lyrics he’s writ­ten for the Hip so he had to re-learn them with the help of teleprompters both dur­ing re­hearsal — a video shows the strug­gle all too well — and on the road.

But, as each show was per­formed, Downie’s band­mates no­ticed him get­ting stronger de­spite ini­tial fears he might have a seizure on stage.

“Every­body around me did help me get onto my knees and then onto my feet,” says Downie in the movie which cul­mi­nates in Kingston dur­ing that wildly pa­tri­otic and emo­tional fi­nal show that was na­tion­ally broad­cast.

“It was the best I ever felt on stage. I wanted the shows to go on for­ever.”

Now they can thanks to this doc­u­men­tary.

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