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Barenaked Ladies accept key to Toronto

By JOHN MCKAY, Canadian Press, September 21st 2000.

Eight years ago they were shunned by the City of Toronto, but the Barenaked Ladies were finally handed the key to the city Thursday.

Deputy mayor Case Ootes gave the key to the pop band, which originated in suburban Scarborough, and called the Ladies "great ambassadors." Back in 1992, the mayor at the time, June Rowlands, banned the group from playing in Nathan Phillips Square. She said the name Barenaked Ladies "objectified women."

The band, which has just launched its new album Maroon, played a free concert for appreciative fans.

As for what happened in '92, that seems to be water under the bridge.

"I don't think we ever held any grudge," said band member Ed Robertson. "We didn't come back to rub anything in anybody's face."

Fellow band member Steve Page said that at the time, the group was embarrassed by the controversy.

But he acknowledges now — with the benefit of hindsight — that the publicity actually did them some good.

"At the time we were really embarrassed and didn't think of it that way (that the publicity would help)," he said. "We thought it was kind of too crass to think about. But in retrospect, it really did do a lot of good for us."

They never imagined the name, which Robertson said he and Page came up with at a Bob Dylan concert, would carry them to such great heights.

"We were bored and we thought it would be a good band name," said Robertson.

Added Page: "We thought it was kind of funny, and we never thought we were going to be a real band so we never thought we were going to have to deal with it."

The band was extremely popular in Canada in the early 1990s, then encountered something of a slump in sales here as they went on to achieve great fame and a No. 1 hit in the United States with the song One Week.

But Canadian fans seem to be embracing them again.

"It's nice to be experiencing kind of a party vibe at home," said Robertson.

"For a number of years we've been seeing real incredible success south of the border. It's been a bit of a lunchbag letdown when we come back home, so to see Toronto partying with us is really great."

Their U.S. tour to support Maroon begins Friday, and they'll be touring Canada in February and March, they said.

A documentary on the band by actor/director Jason Priestley will be released next week in the U.S. and this November in Canada. It was shown last year at the Toronto International Film Festival.