Downie’s stage stamina impressive as The Hip tour hits Toronto

[Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie performs with band members in Victoria on July 22, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Light]

Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie’s resilience on tour so far has been impressive but not surprising, the musician’s neuro-oncologist tells Global News.

“You need to be highly motivated, maintain your fitness level. He’s done all of those things. So I’m not surprised to see he can do this because he was so motivated to do this,” Dr. James Perry, head of neurology at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, said on The Morning Show.

“The level of strength and courage, the energy that he needs to do this is well beyond what most people can do,” Dr. Perry said.

The Tragically Hip are in the back half of a cross-country tour in support of their latest album “Man Machine Poem.” This tour will likely be the long-running band’s last after Downie announced his terminal brain cancer diagnosis in May. 

They play their first of three nights in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday evening. Mayor John Tory declared it Tragically Hip Day in honour of the band on Wednesday morning, and fans can record videos about their favourite Hip memories at a booth stationed outside the concert venue.

The band has received good reviews from critics and an emotional response from fans so far on the tour, which began in Victoria on July 22. Dr. Perry told Global that he and his wife attended the Victoria show and said that fans still waiting to hear the band during their tour won’t be disappointed.

“It is such a dynamic, energy filled show. With the emotion from the news, the shows have been loud. They’ve been emotional. People have been crying. It’s just a joy to be there,” Dr. Perry said.

Downie’s health is being closely monitored during the tour but he isn’t receiving active treatment for glioblastoma, a rare and terminal brain cancer, while the group is on tour, Dr. Perry said. 

Dr. Perry pointed out that despite the terminal diagnosis life expectancy for glioblastoma can vary considerably. 

“Everyone’s tumour is so different just like people are different. So there are people that might succumb within six months of their diagnosis,” he said. “Just the other day I saw a woman from my first day in practice, 20 years ago. Same tumour.”

Median survival post-diagnosis for adults with glioblastoma is 14.6 months, according to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. About 30 per cent of patients survive two years, according to the foundation.

Fans around the country have held pre-show fundraisers during the tour, raising money to donate towards brain cancer research in Canada. It’s not yet clear how much will be raised for the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research at Sunnybrook hospital but Dr. Perry has previously said that he thinks it could be substantial.

“I think we’ll have a significant amount of money,“ he told CBC News last week. "This brings a spectacular opportunity, sadly, to bring awareness across Canada.”

The last show of the Tragically Hip’s tour — and possibly their final live show as a band — will be in their hometown of Kingston, Ont., on Aug. 20. The concert will be live streamed at locations across the country, and aired live on CBC TV.