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Tragically Hip fans cross their fingers for their favourites at Saturday's big show

Frontman of the Tragically Hip, Gord Downie, centre, leads the band through a concert in Vancouver on July, 24, 2016.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
August 16, 2016 - 8:30 AM

TORONTO - You can't always get what you want — but fans of the Tragically Hip looking forward to Saturday's big show in Kingston, Ont., certainly have a list of what they'd like to hear.

There are huge expectations for the final show of the Hip's "Man Machine Poem" tour, which will be aired live on CBC across the country to both diehards and casual fans.

With frontman Gord Downie battling incurable brain cancer, many fans expected this tour was their last opportunity to say goodbye to the singer and hear the songs they love most.

But with 14 studio albums to the band's name, and only two-and-half hours of airtime to play with, it's inevitable some fans will end up feeling their favourite song was slighted.

David Parker, who considers himself a longtime Hip fan, attended one of last week's Toronto shows with some expectations. He wanted to hear picks from the classic Hip albums "Up to Here," "Road Apples" and "Fully Completely," instead of the newer songs.

"I tell ya," he said, "if they don't play 'Bobcaygeon' and 'Wheat Kings,' someone's gonna get, ya know..."

"Hurt real bad," interjected his friend Michael Brewster with a chuckle.

They were lucky enough to hear both tracks during the show.

Other Hip fans missed out on hearing their favourites, and some jumped on social media to express their sadness over songs that didn't make the cut.

Eddy Tondowsky said he was a little disappointed when the band decided not to perform "Flamenco" from 1996's "Trouble at the Henhouse" at the Vancouver concert he attended, but gave it a go a few nights later in another city.

"I was like, 'Damn, that would've been nice,'" he said.

"But you don't have to hear all the ones you want to hear. Sometimes you get to hear one you might've forgotten about."

For those keeping track, songs from the Hip's new album "Man Machine Poem" have been played the most on the tour as of Tuesday, according to the website Setlist.fm. "In a World Possessed by the Human Mind," "Machine" and "What Blue" have all been played 12 times. The intrinsically Canadian track "Bobcaygeon" came in a close second place with 11 plays, while "Grace, Too," "Ahead By a Century" and "Poets" were played 10 times.

Surprisingly, Hip standards like "Nautical Disaster," "Fifty-Mission Cap" and "Locked in the Trunk of a Car" haven't been played as much as you might expect — only twice each.

Super fan Stephen Dame, who runs the Hip resource website A Museum After Dark, said fans should be satisfied just seeing the Hip in concert.

"I've always treated their shows like a sporting event — I'm going to see the players," he said. "What they play is up to them, and I'm fine with that."

The Hip's set lists have been handpicked by bassist Gord Sinclair for decades, Dame said, but the musician noticeably changed how he picked songs for this tour.

The Hip has grouped together mini-sets of songs from various albums, with Sinclair's selections changing every night, perhaps even to appeal to local tastes, Dame suggested.

"I trust him to know what will make a great show," he said. "This band has never been derivative, never been predictable."

Jay Barker caught the band numerous times over their career but said he was still shocked to hear Downie charge into a rendition of "So Hard Done By" from the band's 1994 album "Day For Night." The song rarely found a home in set lists anymore, he said.

"It was like they were playing it for the first time," he said with a smile.

"It's a surprise and it's a treat to hear some of their older stuff, and some of the songs they don't normally play in concert."

Whether more obscure tracks make it onto the CBC-broadcasted show is anybody's guess, but it's likely that Downie and the band will favour some of the big hits. Other frequently played hits on the tour have included "New Orleans is Sinking," "Wheat Kings," "Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)" and "At the Hundredth Meridian."

Whatever the Hip decides to play, Nancy McCowan said she will watch the CBC broadcast with no expectations — except to have a good time while she pays tribute to Downie's musical prowess.

"This is about him and the band," she said.

"It's all about us being the fans, sitting back and waiting to see what Gord wants to give to us."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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