By Chris Moore:
On the heels of my previous BnL concert review, posted little more than three months ago, there isn’t much more that needs to be said, other than to underscore several assertions concerning the Barenaked Ladies.
First, it really can never be too soon to see them play live again. After seeing them in August with decent seats and having had an outstandingly fun time, I almost considered letting this second New England tour stopover pass me by.
Being fortunate enough to live in an area that is located in, as a friend recently referred to it, the “Barenaked Belt,” it simply doesn’t make sense to not take advantage of it. And, this time around, the venue was considerably smaller – Mohegan Sun Arena being 9500 capacity, and the Klein Auditorium being only 1400. We sat front row balcony, or “mezzanine” as the theatre people say, and got some performances that probably wouldn’t find their way into a stadium set, songs like the rarely played “Moonstone” and “Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel.”
A second assertion, and perhaps the main thrust of my August review, is that BnL is every bit as good as they were when Steven Page was in the band. This is surprising, as he is such a unique talent and a man who brings considerable stage presence and energy to the live shows.
And, for the record, let’s be clear that I would love to see the five-man band reunited at some point down the road.
But, for now, the four-piece Barenaked Ladies are still a force to be reckoned with, and they have apparently decided that no catalog item is off limits, regardless of how much of a “Steven” song it is/was. Take, for example, the fairly standard middle of their order, a veritable greatest hits of Steven Page tracks: “Sound of Your Voice,” “It’s All Been Done,” “Too Little Too Late,” and “Brian Wilson,” all topped off with the not-so-subtle “You Run Away.”
A third assertion is one that struck me early in the set last night: the Barenaked Ladies are the rare group of men that have gotten cooler as the years pass. One needs only to compare their image and sound from the excellent and not-to-be-slighted Gordon era with their current stage show in order to appreciate just how cool they’ve become without losing too many fans to claims of selling out.
They have such a vast array of music, and to a certain degree, they allow for it in their set lists. Although there are certain songs that you can reasonably expect (and in certain orders), there is room for adlibs and unexpected deep tracks, songs like those mentioned above. Even songs that have been played about ten thousand times over their career, like “One Week,” have taken on a fresh appeal. With Kevin Hearn singing the Page parts of “One Week” last night, I think they’ve finally perfected their recent live arrangement of this, their best-known composition. Likewise, Tyler Stewart and Jim Creeggan have stepped up their game, Stewart bringing down the house with his reinvigorated, Jack Black-esque approach to “Alcohol” and Creeggan with his on-stage gesticulations, ear-to-ear grin, and acceptance of the spotlight for tracks like “On the Lookout” and “Peterborough and the Kawarthas.”
Finally, as if it needs to be said, Ed Robertson is a force unto himself. His white man rapping helped to establish the band’s public image, and he is ever willing to put himself out there for a laugh.
When I choose the words “put himself out there,” I mean that literally.
Last night, as a tribute to their excellent opening act Jukebox the Ghost’s final night on tour, Robertson emerged from backstage with only a towel on. Then, positioning himself between keyboardist/lead vocalist Ben Thornewill and the audience, he opened his towel so only Thornewill could see him and proceeded to dance to the music. He moved around the stage and repeated this process for the other two band members. Meanwhile, the crowd was laughing and clapping and screaming, and guitarist Tommy Siegel laughed his way through his vocals.
As Thornewill pointed out after the song, he could only see Robertson in his peripheral vision at first. When he reached his hand out to pretend to tickle him, he found that Robertson was indeed wearing only a towel.
Never let it be said that the “Barenaked” part of their band name hasn’t been earned.
Forgive me for getting up on my soapbox yet again, but BnL continues to be one of the most underappreciated rock music acts of the modern age. If you or someone you know hears “Barenaked Ladies” and instantly thinks “goofy,” “funny,” “If I Had $1,000,000,” and/or “One Week,” then check bnlmusic.com for a tour date in your area. One show and you’ll be hooked. Guaranteed.
I’ve been a fan now for over a decade, and they continue to recapture my interest and adoration each and every time I see them live.
As I climb off my soapbox, I bid you good day and hope this review might at least inspire a spin of Maroon or Stunt. Or Gordon. Or Maybe You Should Drive. Or Everything to Everyone. Or…
Well, you get the idea.