Victoria Concert: Tom Cochrane’s Highway Comes Full Circle
Musician Tom Cochrane   Photograph By Dustin Rabin, Dustin Rabin Photography.


What: Tom Cochrane and Red Rider with Nice Horse

Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre

When: Tuesday

Tom Cochrane and the Victoria area have a special bond that stretches back through the decades to 1992, when the Red Rider frontman played a record-setting show before 10,000 fans at Western Speedway.

Cochrane, 63, returned to Victoria Tuesday night for a concert that mined familiar territory: his 1991 breakout as a solo artist, Mad Mad World. Cochrane and his band played the record in its entirety before 2,356 fans, many of whom cheered at the mention of his 1992 date. Until a 2012 show at Rock the Shores by the Tragically Hip, his Western Speedway appearance was considered the biggest one-day concert in Vancouver Island history.

“I love it out here,” Cochrane said Tuesday during a break in the action. “This is where it began with this record, 25 years ago. We want to share those memories with you tonight.”

The performance was full of special meaning for the product of Lynn Lake, Man., who opened with the title track to Mad Mad World, the perfect warm-up for Cochrane and his bandmates.

On stage to celebrate the 25th anniversary of one of the most successful albums in Canadian history, the band played Mad Mad World in full off the top, albeit it out of sequence, before letting fly with a show-closing run of songs made famous when Cochrane was at the helm of Red Rider.

It was oddly paced, at first. Given that same of the Mad Mad World songs hadn’t been played live in years, that was to be expected. Other issues arose early on. His wall of video screens that were oddly spaced showed a mini-documentary about Cochrane’s vast charity work, but the text was difficult to read and images nearly impossible to see.

Once the lights went down, signifying the start of the show, another short video about Cochrane was shown, but was no easier on the eyes.

It was a minor drawback. The early portion of his set may had some highs and lows (Salt Spring Island singer Tara MacLean appearing on versions of The Secret is to Know When to Stop and Washed Away was a nice touch) but the show eventually found its footing an hour into the proceedings.

With the Mad Mad World portion out of the way, Cochrane and keyboardist-guitarist Ken Greer, bassist Jeff Jones, drummer Davide Direnzo, and guitarist Bill Bell hitched their wagons to an impressive succession of hits — songs which made Cochrane and Red Rider a perennial favourite at the Juno Awards during the 1980s.

The material has aged well. Cochrane has, too. His voice may be thinner than it was, but his energy hasn’t ebbed, and when the song called for a rambunctious delivery he could abide.

The night got underway with a set by Nice Horse, a Calgary quartet making its Victoria debut. The all-female group performed well, especially for a band undertaking its first Canadian tour. The band’s 30-minute set included a series of banjo-tinged songs, some of which — a game cover of Kim Mitchell’s Patio Lanterns, for example — were put through a pop blender. All in all, a fine debut.

Members of the group joined Cochrane during portions of his set, to the same wave of amorous hoots and hollers the males in the audience greeted them with in the opening slot. Even Cochrane got in on the action, informing the audience in a low tone that two members of Nice Horse are also WestJet flight attendants. More hoots and hollers. A fun, come-hither version of Hit the Road Jack, with Cochrane and his band, gave the audience more incentive to add to the chorus.

It wasn’t all giggles and grins. Cochrane preceded a spirited Lunatic Fringe with a speech about freedom and democracy. He’s a political person but has never been considered a political artist, so it was nice to see his blood boil a bit.

Cochrane still remembers his Western Speedway show as a turning point in the trajectory of his 1991 album Mad Mad World, and one of the key moments in what became a successful solo career for one of the country’s most enduring artists.

In some ways, his journey began in Victoria, which received a welcome blast from the not-so-distant past on Tuesday.

As per his song of the same name, good times were had.



  1. Mad Mad World
  2. Brave and Crazy
  3. Sinking Like a Sunset
  4. Bigger Man
  5. All the King’s Men
  6. The Secret is to Know When to Stop
  7. Washed Away
  8. Friendly Advice
  9. Everything Comes Around
  10. Emotional Truth
  11. 11.Get Back Up
  12. No Regrets
  13. Hit the Road Jack
  14. Life is a Highway
  15. Human Race
  16. Big League
  17. Lunatic Fringe
  18. White Hot


  1. Dreamer’s Dream
  2. Good Times
  3. Boy Inside the Man