Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Gord Downie Highlights Story of Chanie Wenjack with 'Secret Path' Toronto Show

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Gord Downie Highlights Story of Chanie Wenjack with 'Secret Path' Toronto Show

Article excerpt

Downie brings 'Secret Path' show to Toronto


TORONTO - On the eve of the 50th anniversary of Chanie Wenjack's passing, Gord Downie offered an impassioned retelling of his story through a collection of songs honouring the late indigenous boy.

The Tragically Hip frontman, who is living with terminal cancer, performed his latest solo effort "Secret Path" at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto on Friday night.

The album tells the tragic tale of 12-year-old Chanie who died in 1966 after running away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ont.

Downie's older brother, Mike, introduced the musician to Chanie's story, which was documented in a 1967 Maclean's story by Ian Adams called "The Lonely Death of Chanie Wenjack."

Adams and members of Chanie's family filled the front rows, as Downie was greeted by a standing ovation as he walked onstage and saluted the crowd.

It had been a longer than expected wait for Toronto concert-goers, after an unexplained glitch at the box office led to the start of the show being pushed back by an hour.

Downie's Toronto concert followed his "Secret Path" show at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Tuesday, and a performance of the lead track "The Stranger" at the We Day youth empowerment event at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Wednesday.

"Secret Path" originated from a collection of poems written by Downie, which evolved into songs. The album, recorded in 2013, was produced by Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew and Dave Hamelin, known for his work with indie rock group the Stills.

The 10-track album is part of a multimedia project, which includes a graphic novel illustrated by Jeff Lemire and an hour-long animated special airing Sunday on CBC.

A denim-clad Downie and his five-piece band powered through the songs without a break.

A large screen projected images of an animated film, which depicted the journey of a young boy trodding along the railroad tracks, visibly frightened and soaked by rain, walking in search of home --and never reaching his destination.

About a third of the way through the setlist, Downie said to the audience: "Applause will get harder, and that's OK. …

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