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Better Late Than Never For Barenaked Ladies

By RANDALL KING, Winnipeg Free Press, August 29th, 2001.

Winnipeg Arena, Winnipeg
Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Barenaked Ladies With Sarah Harmer Winnipeg Arena Attendance: 7,500 3 1/2 out of five

TSK, tsk, Barenaked Ladies. We're going to have to give you a slip for tardiness.

It's been a long six-month wait since you Scarborough-spawned folk-rock whatzits were forced to postpone your originally scheduled concert on Feb. 26, cancelled when five tractor-trailers full of equipment headed to Winnipeg from North Bay, Ont., were delayed by a snowstorm.

Fortunately for you, the 7,500 fans who showed at the Winnipeg Arena last night forgave everything about two songs into the last concert of your tour — when singer-guitarist Ed Robertson launched into Pinch Me, in fact.

Ah, the healing power of a hit.

The Ladies had lots of hits to fall back on, and a lot of comic diversions between songs — including a rant by drummer Tyler Stewart on the renaming of Canad Inn Stadium — and side-trips into all-Canadian cover tunes. We loved the way they build a rhythmic fire under Bruce Cockburn's Lovers in a Dangerous Time. We were amused by bass player Jim Creeggan's medley of unlikely songs for stand-up bass and bow. And we were scared by Stewart's maniac interpretation of Loverboy's Turn Me Loose for voice and drums.

There was a lot of charm, too. Since becoming a hit stateside, the band has reassuringly retained its non-threatening Canadian vibe. Look at them. These are rare rock stars who could easily pass for Radio Shack employees.

Ah, but there's the Barenaked rub. While the band has retained their insouciant attitude and musicianship, they've also bought into many of the parody-worthy trappings of the touring rock band. Somewhere, the Ladies decided that if they had a million dollars, they'd pay for half of their $2-million video system, while putting a huge inflatable face-prop and a bank of psychedelic lights on layaway.

They put on a great show on their own (two encores worth). One can't help but wonder if it wouldn't have been just as well if all the high-tech toys had been left on that highway from North Bay.

Folk-rocker Sarah Harmer was so eager to go on, she started her scheduled 35-minute set a few minutes before the scheduled 7:30 p.m. start time. No complaints here. It was a pleasure to hear as much of that clear-as-crystal alto as Harmer could fit in.