JUNE 24 2018
PHIL TANK – SASKATOON STARPHOENIX
Tom Cochrane and his reunited Red Rider bandmates rocked the Bessborough Gardens Saturday night at the jazz festival
A little Prairie pandering never hurts, but Saturday’s performance by Tom Cochrane with Red Rider rocked the riverbank in Saskatoon in a show that transcended roots.
Cochrane’s gig in the Bessborough Gardens Saturday headlining the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival included the inevitable reworked version of Big League to honour the Humboldt Broncos.
Cochrane made references to his “Prairie boy” background throughout the lively show, but the new lyrics to Big League struck a heartfelt note.
Cochrane stood alone with his guitar, bathed in Broncos-coloured yellow and green lights, to perform the 1988 classic with new lyrics to pay tribute to victims of the April 6 bus crash that killed 16.
If Cochrane had hoped for silent reverence during the song about a hockey tragedy, Saturday night at the jazz fest with rowdy fans may have been the wrong venue.
Still, Cochrane was handed a Broncos jersey from a member of the throng that partied in front of the stage for the entire 13-song set.
“We didn’t cry for Humboldt,” Cochrane said prior to his first performance of the reworked song in Saskatchewan. “We cried with Humboldt.”
Cochrane followed Big League with a stripped-down version of the ballad Good Times with just himself and original Red Rider keyboardist Ken Greer on stage.
Mostly, though, Cochrane and his reunited Red Rider bandmates, also including bassist Jeff Jones, rocked the riverside venue.
If the jazz fest main stage was not located outdoors, the band’s performance of Canadian rock anthem Life is a Highway would have blown the roof off the joint.
The band burst into the rousing classic after an odd interlude of the 1961 Ray Charles smash Hit the Road Jack.
Cochrane welcomed fellow Manitoba native and opening act Romi Mayes back on stage to help out with Life is a Highway vocals. Not that he needed help.
The 65-year-old, clad in a black leather jacket for almost the entire show, showed no signs of his age, even though many songs call for him to scream. His dancing could best be described as awkward shuffling, but that’s part of his charm.
The extended guitar riffs on multiple songs got repetitive, but the fans sounded like they could not get enough.
Give the band credit, too, for selling the pre-encore exit with extended bows. But a reunited Red Rider concert without Lunatic Fringe? Unthinkable.
The evening looked to be ending after Boy Inside the Man. Cochrane hopped around with a big smile on his face, looking like a teenager who had just finished his first paying gig.
“This is home for us, you know,” he said. “I’m a Prairie boy.”
Then, Cochrane sat down alone at the keyboards for the quiet Another Year to cap the show.
Mayes opened up for Cochrane with an impressive set of bluesy songs.