Why the Tragically Hip chose Victoria to start tour

Victoria has always been a preferred starting point for tours by the Tragically Hip, because they’re more likely to be left alone while they get their show ready for the road.

More eyes than ever have been on the Kingston, Ont., group this week, however, as it readies itself for tonight’s performance at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, the first date on what many are calling the band’s final trek across Canada.

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“Culturally, it’s very significant — not just for Victoria, but for Canada,” said Dave Dakers, president of arena operator RG Sports and Entertainment.

“It’s an act we’ve all grown up with. For the fans, it’s an opportunity to celebrate and relive their youth, to some degree.”

The band’s gear made it to the arena on Tuesday afternoon, with the band arriving Wednesday morning.

Rehearsals could be heard outside the building Wednesday evening, with reports of Gord Downie — the lead singer whose terminal brain cancer diagnosis shocked the nation in May — sounding strong on a version of the hit Bobcaygeon.

“They like to start here because it’s a great city, very relaxed,” Dakers said.

“They can get out and about and not have any real issues. Our facility is the right size, so they know they are going to have a great crowd. At the end of the day, we respect what they’re doing and respect them as artists. We’re here to support them.”

The band will play without an intermission during its concert tonight, according to Dakers. The inaugural show on the band’s Man Machine Poem tour has an expected two-hour, 15-minute run time. “What we’ve heard from rehearsals sounds great. Seemingly everyone is nice and happy and relaxed.”

More than 7,000 fans will be on hand tonight when the band takes the stage, the first of 15 stops on its 30-day tour. The start time has been moved to 8:30 p.m. from 7 to accommodate what will surely be a rush of excited fans eager to get in the door.

Tickets have been exceedingly hard to come by, but a reprieve was issued Wednesday when 50 pairs of tickets for each show were made available through a lottery on the band’s website. Fifty people who enter at TheHip.com will be notified by email at 1 p.m. today if they have won the opportunity to purchase a pair.

Should any of those tickets go unsold, they will be released back to the Select Your Tickets box office for public resale at 7 p.m.

Fans will no doubt get their money’s worth, Dakers said. The concert tonight will be the fourth the group has played at the venue since it opened in 2005. All have been sold out.

“It’s a band with quite a bit of history in this city. But this time, the focus has transcended what the artist has done, as far as music goes, to being a cultural high-water mark. People want to say they were there.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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