OTTAWA — Yeah, life is a highway and Tom Cochrane was driving all night long.

At least it felt that way at Cochrane’s long-awaited Red Rider reunion for CHEZ’s 25th anniversary do, Monday night at the Congress Centre.

For the 3,500 cheering and cheering fans, this night was a rocking travelogue with the hard-driving veteran Prairie band.
No leisurely cruise down the Pacific Coast highway or a bumper-to-bumper impasse on the Queensway, Cochrane’s return to the capital was an open-air, over the limit two-hour run down the Trans Canada highway in a 1969 Plymouth Barracuda, for those old enough to remember that muscle car.

This was a night for rock’s classic stereotypes, the music of an open V-8, taking the faithful on a Kerouacian road trip to small town Canada. For the converted, it was a party on four wheels, one that tested the patience of the abundant heat who attended to the needs of the carried-away.
For the most part, the Cochrane-Rider reunion was a good ride, one that fuelled imaginations that this might be part of a bigger, more permanent relationship. After all, if it worked for The Guess Who, why not Red Rider?

Cochrane and Red Rider — guitarist Ken Greer, bass-player Spider Sinnaeve and keyboardist John Webster — personify the renaissance of vintage arena rock that Boomers grew up on. It’s music with more muscle than imagination.

So they were the ideal entertainment for the legendary rock station’s birthday celebration. I mean, if anyone could evoke the 1970s, Cochrane played the role, opening the set with the fist-raising anthem Victory, shifting gears through Sinking Like A Sunset and Power before reaching fifth with a dedication to strong women with Untouchable One and Human Race.
Still, there was a sense of getting through the old and, but for the most hardened Red Rider fan, the most generic, least consequential. This is the music of a younger band, desperately trying to find its own sound, a sound Cochrane wouldn’t find until he left the band.

The loudest cheers and brightest lighters were saved for Cochrane’s solo radio hits, I Wish You Well, White Hot, the anthem for all hockey parents, Big League and finally, the song that they’ll go to their graves singing, Life Is A Highway.

By that time, any encore was a moot point. It was time to turn around and head home.