The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is unquestionably the region's most cherished and venerable musical institution. It has been heard across the city since 1935, filling Kleinhans Music Hall with enchanting notes, and providing the beauty of a world-renowned orchestra against countless eclectic backdrops.
But for musical accompaniment to Buffalo's barrooms, bonfires and backyard reunions, look to the tunes of Kingston, Ontario’s Tragically Hip.
Merge these elements together with Queen City-based tribute act the Strictly Hip and, on the eve of Canada Day, you have the components of Friday night's stirring performance at Canalside.
For those familiar with the "BPO Rocks” series or previous Canalside concerts honoring the Grateful Dead or David Bowie, it’s no surprise that a collective adept at performances of Schubert and Tchaikovsky can take on the finest compositions of classic rock.
And for audiences still hurting from last summer’s farewell shows by the beloved Tragically Hip, the Philharmonic’s collaboration with the music mimicry of the Strictly Hip was this summer's chance for catharsis.
What transpired was a bit of orchestral-aided comfort — as well as the season’s largest tribute show.
After the BPO – under the direction of conductor Stefan Sanders – delivered both Canadian and U.S. national anthems, the Jeremy Hoyle-led Hip ripped into its rendition of "Courage," complete with the original's guitar stamps and solos. But with Frank Nicastro's Gibson turned to an authoritative volume, the BPO's backing strings and brass couldn't rise to their intended dimensions.
Thankfully, this was merely an opening error. Immediately adjusted, the rest of the first set's Bradley Thachuk-directed collaboration added new layers to its chosen tracks, all while eliciting a reaction reflective of the Tragically Hip's imprint on the city and region.
The tone and instrumentation of tunes like “Bobcaygeon” and “Gift Shop” melded seamlessly with the BPO’s wall of violins and cellos. Behind Hoyle’s trembling, Downie-like vocal on “Ahead by a Century,” these elements weren’t an unnecessary addition, but more of an enhanced take.
When it came to the cooperative’s ability to transport Canalside’s thousands to an actual Tragically Hip show, there was the night’s take on both “Grace, Too” and “Nautical Disaster.” On the former, the crowd joined Hoyle on most of the vocals, adding to his statements and spasms like Downie himself was summoning assistance.
For the latter, the cavalcade of strings, oboes and brass appropriately enhanced the already dramatic nature of the Hip’s signature shipwreck song.
But for a crowd still enraptured with the work of the Hip, one set wasn’t enough. On an evening celebrating the band’s still-potent relationship with its southern neighbor, the Strictly Hip came out for its own BPO-less set of reverential rockers to end the night.
Before the tour through the Hip's cherished catalog, the stage was owned by local rock act, current Ron Hawkins protégés Dirty Smile. Fronted by the mesmerizing Megan Brown and guitarist Jesse Raderman, the Best of Buffalo Award-winning quintet carried early arrivals through its classic rock-leaning catalog of original wailers.
Fender-fueled tracks like "S.O.S." and "Strange Times" sparked the 1970s-era tone of the set, while Brown's tambourine and siren's howl on a cover of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" provided a big taste of why the band has become a local favorite.
Strictly Hip with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Canalside Live!
Friday night at Canalside