SameDiff BNL

'Naked' Lads Do It All For Fun

By JANE GANAHL,, October 12th 2000.

Barenaked Ladies show off their wacky best at Shoreline concert

MOUNTAIN VIEW — They may look squeaky clean, but the five apple-cheeked lads of Barenaked Ladies have a deeply demented streak, demonstrated by their daring new album, "Maroon," and their Dadaist concert Wednesday night at Shoreline Amphitheatre.

Still, despite the occasionally darkly ironic lyric or oddball prank, the BNLs, as they're known, took at least one of their Bible lessons seriously growing up around Toronto: the passage that suggests making a "joyful noise." Because there's no band more joyful than the BNLs, this was one show that specialized in hilarity, and it was pure F-U-N.

It was a lovefest between the five musicians and the nearly-sold-out audience, which sang along with every song — even the new ones — and bobbed their heads happily like dashboard dolls. The only difference between this and a Phish audience: the abundance of limos parked outside Wednesday night. The BNLs are big with the post-grad, dot-com, disposable income crowd.

But we won't hold that against them. Despite the fact that they aren't the world's most brilliant band, they put on a great show. In fact, one reason it was so great is because they KNOW this isn't brain surgery; they're just there to have a good time. And their mood is infectious.

Taking the stage to a droning poem, with Miro-esque animation on giant screens, it didn't take long for the BNLs to get silly.

After a romping "Too Little Too Late," the lead track from "Maroon," they plunged right into "Alcohol," the politically incorrect anthem about the joys of getting hammered, from "Stunt," the 1998 album that vaulted the Canadian group to superstardom. They then did "Never Is Enough," the sardonically cheery, anti-college ditty.

They did several rap sendups (the first being about smells, including skunks and coffee and... never mind); another rap was about their fancy new pants (the band dressed alike, in black tops and striped trousers) and later morphed into the schmaltz ballad "Don't Cry Out Loud." It was always five men on stage, except when a man dressed as a French chef would wander onto stage to play tambourine.

Among the better, stranger moments: a rendition of Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby One More Time," sung by keyboardist Kevin Hearn as if he were Darth Vader (trust me, it was hilarious), an honest-to-God drum solo by the very talented Tyler Stewart, which was so long the band left the stage, and was shown in a video smoking cigars in their bathrobes and continually checking their watches. And gifted bass player Jim Creeggan bowed his stand-up bass to the music of the opera "Carmen."

This is a band blessed with two strong singers in Ed Robertson (who looks a bit like Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong — in 10 years) and Steven Page, who handles the rapid-fire scat-singing made famous on their biggest single, "One Week." Their interplay is pleasing; they crack each other up and harmonize like they've been doing it for a decade — which they have.

"Falling for the First Time," from "Maroon," was a blistering look at the trappings of stardom ("anyone perfect must be lying/anything easy has its cost"). The tango-beat satire, "Sell Sell Sell" didn't get the appreciation it should in the heart of Silicon Valley. But the lovely, sentimental "Pinch Me," the BNLs' newest hit (containing the world's most random lyric, "I just made you say 'underwear' ") drew thunderous applause.

They dipped into "Stunt" for "It's All Been Done," and went even further back to resurrect the romantic "Jane," which featured beautiful multi-part harmonies. And "Conventioneers," about a sordid tryst between co-workers, was as dark as it was funny.

The nearly-two-hour set wound down with a hilarious K-Tel Records take-off, with the BNLs playing 10-second snippets of their biggest hits, while the song titles rolled by on the screen. Oh those crazy Canucks!