Live At The Roxy
With the release of their second album Road Apples in February 1991, The Tragically Hip were well on their way to becoming Canada’s newest arena-rock stars. By contrast, down in the US, they were still slogging it out in the clubs and picking up converts one gig at a time—a circumstance made apparent by this live recording from May of that year, when they took the stage at Hollywood’s Roxy Theatre to a polite smattering of applause. But with the Hip, it didn’t matter if they were playing to 10,000 people or a hundred—with a frontman like Gord Downie at the helm, you were always guaranteed a show. Long before this official release, the Roxy set had already attained mythical status among Hip fans, thanks to extended versions (previously released as B-sides) of set list staples “New Orleans Is Sinking” and “Highway Girl” where Downie wilds out into freestyled spoken-word narratives like a hoser Jim Morrison. But those are just the two best-known examples here of Downie treating the stage as his own absurdist comedy club: As the band attacks Road Apples anthems like “Little Bones,” “Three Pistols,” and “On the Verge” with punkish abandon, Downie drops in shout-outs to Val Kilmer and Akira Kurosawa, while previewing a certain funereal fantasy about Ry Cooder that would find a permanent home in 1992 single “At the Hundreth Meridian.” The greatest live albums tend to capture a band at the peak of their powers, but Live at the Roxy is an essential document of the Hip learning to harness theirs in real time.