I think one of the most intriguing things about doing gig reviews is the intriguing people you get to meet while you are covering these shows. One of these people would have to be Derrick Lloyd, who was functioning in a number of positions for Tom Cochrane at this show. He was overseeing the stage crew, he was a bodyguard, and he was also the ‘doorman’ for the tent, not to mention a number of other things that came under his sphere of control. He was a really nice guy who genuinely cared about what he was doing, and made an effort to not only accommodate people as much as he could, but to keep everything rolling as smoothly as possible for Tom. Derrick has a number of interesting stories. I am hoping that someday I will get the chance to hear a few of them… However, in the interim, it is nice to know that one of Canada’s greatest humanitarians and musicians has someone like that looking out for him.

The rain began, and the band started. Tom was nowhere to be seen as the intro to “Human Race” filled the darkening night. The crowd was oblivious to the rain, their eyes glued to the stage awaiting Tom’s arrival. And when it came, they roared, releasing balloons by the dozens into the crowd — colorful bursts offsetting the darkness and the chill rain. Then Tom’s vocals reached out in their familiar half rasp to greet the crowd and the night.

“Sinking Like A Sunset” had the crowd singing along, ignoring the rain in favour of the show on the stage. Tom walked the edge of the stage, making eye contact with as many as he could while he sang, and turning this event into something so personal it still astounds me. It was a concert, with thousands of people, yet he made it feel like an intimate unplugged session. A rare experience, and one to treasure. The performance was strong, and Tom gave even more meaning to his already deep soulful lyrics, if that is possible.

“Wish You Well” was performed enigmatically. Tom’s lyrics pull at the heart strings, they are so emotionally charged, and the potency of having him perform them live held the crowd in a state of complete and utter reverence. Tom’s work on the harmonica added another facet to this heart-rending song, and it was pushed right into the bounds of awe-inspiring. The rain was completely forgotten by this time, as everyone was swept up into the music and the moment.

As I said, Tom has a way of making his performance come across as if he is performing specifically for you. “Washed Away” became an almost intimate number for the 6000+ in attendance. Tom’s howls were an anguished call of the wild on a lonely windswept night. I have never heard this particular song sound so good.

Tom then picked up a bassier acoustic as his band silently left the stage, leaving him to perform a solo rendition of “Bird on a Wire.” Written by one his favorite writers – Leonard Cohen. It is a beautiful tune and a real master played it. A folksy hymn which Tom breathed new life into. Sadly, the appreciative crowd drowned out his vocals more than once. He then continued on into “Avenue A” which is off of the first Red Rider album, still without the band reappearing. It was a class act – even with the crowd going berserk. There were catcalls and whistles, and screams of “I love you Tom” ringing out into the night. I’m certain concentration would have been difficult for him, but he never wavered once, and actually came up with a wonderful guitar flourish for the ending.

Another guitar change, this time not-so-bass acoustics, for a campfire style number. “Good Times” brought out the crowd’s vocals at Tom’s behest. It was wonderful; they were calm and attentive, like children listening wide-eyed to an engrossing bedtime story. It was great! Especially the flamenco style ending he gave the piece, which
had him semi-dancing in place.

Then came another change of guitars, this time it was a personal favorite, and also a song based on a true story. “Big League” is one of the few songs which deals with Canada’s passion – – hockey. This piece always raises goose bumps on me, but hearing it live was sending shivers down my spine. Sadly, Tom’s vocals were almost drowned out by the music as his band rejoined him onstage. This is undoubtedly a Canadian cultural classic song, and was rounded out by a great ending featuring the drums.

Then came another classic piece, which was the original first hit for Tom Cochrane and Red Rider. Tom wrote this piece roughly 12 years prior to it’s really becoming true for him. Tom was in Somalia when the Marines landed, standing on the beach as they came in. “White Hot” is a song which deals with the Somalian Shore and whose lyrics are constantly misheard or mistaken for something else. “I’m white hot I can’t take it anymore – I’m white hot – By the somalian shore – Yes I’m burning to the core – I need rain…”

Tom slid into this piece with a bluesy intro, which again had the crowd roaring and bouncing balloons back and forth. I had to laugh, Tom calls for rain in the lyrics to cool him down, and he gets just that! The rain was coming down ever harder, in buckets, but the size of the crowd did not diminish one iota. In fact, the balloons were suddenly everywhere again and people were completely enjoying themselves, it was a taste of what Woodstock must have been like!

“Brave and Crazy” showed us a bit more of what Tom can do with the electric guitar. Sadly, it was at this point that a couple of people decided to get stupid. A plastic bottle came flying out of the crowd and onto the stage, narrowly missing Tom and flying into the platform the drum set was placed on. That single bottle could have ended the show. Thankfully, the band played on.

Tom gave the crowd a good chuckle. “Beautiful Day” which was written by Bono of U2, is popular on the charts now. Tom wrote his “Beautiful Day” three years before Bono. As he said, “there is ALWAYS room for ‘One More Beautiful Day.'” And even though the rain was drenching everything, and it was getting chilly and ugly out, it was still a beautiful day – Tom was playing.

There was a frenetic drum and guitar intro to “No Regrets,” and a great light show to add to the enjoyment of the piece. “Hit the Road Jack,” began with a vocal solo — a great rendition of a very old song. Tom went from this right into “Life is a Highway” and substituted Victoria for Vancouver, much to the delight of the crowd. Rebecca Starr joined in on the vocals for this number, and did a great job of getting the audience to clap and sing along as well.

The familiar haunting strains of Lunatic Fringe cast a very eerie quality over the night. The lights were low, and the crowd hushed and pregnant with expectation. And then all of a sudden it happened – the tech difficulties that had been dogging the show all night culminated one of the main speaker banks shorting out due to rain. The sound was atrocious, although Tom kept playing right though it – not losing a single beat. The techs went to work and soon had a new patch cord in place and the sound was all right again. That was the signal to end the show, sadly enough.

With one last song, “The Boy Inside the Man,” Tom left the crowd wanting more. Unfortunately, due to the weather and the technical problems, an encore was not to be for this performance. Tom gave a friendly wave on his way down the stairs, as Derrick accompanied him back to his tent at a fairly brisk pace.

Tom is one of those really rare artists who puts his entire being into his music. His live performances are not to be missed, and his discs are made to listen to in any setting or mood!