SameDiff BNL

If they had a talk show, they'd be rich and talented

By JIM ABBOTT, Orlando Sentinel, October 27th 2000.

You would be hard-pressed to find a pop band less pretentious than the Barenaked Ladies — or one with a more refined sense of melody and humor.

The Canadian quintet, best known for the quirky hit "If I Had $1,000,000," unleashed a spirited two-hour set Thursday night at Hard Rock Live at Universal Orlando CityWalk. It was a night of corny one-liners, gorgeous layered harmonies and spontaneous rap interludes.

Along with old favorites, the band showcased material from its new Maroon album, most notably the new single "Pinch Me." Essentially a slacker`s coming-of-age tale, "Pinch Me" unfolded at a leisurely pace set by Ed Robertson`s simple, repetitive guitar riff. The guitar perfectly set the mood for lyrics about a guy who might do something big if he can resist the temptation to run through the front-yard sprinklers.

BNL offers solidly crafted pop songs that bore into your brain on the strength of irresistible hooks and melodic twists. New songs such as "Falling For the First Time" compare favorably with older material such as "It`s All Been Done" and "Jane."

The latter ballad was among the show`s highlights, offering a beautiful mix of keyboards, harmonies and guitars. On Thursday, BNL was more captivating than it was in a headlining date at Orlando`s arena in 1998. Robertson and singer-guitarist Steven Page would make great cast members on the improvisational TV show "Who`s Line Is It Anyway?"

Page and Robertson frequently delivered stream-of-consciousness raps on topics that ranged from theme-park rides and forgotten TV stars to the sexual tensions between Sesame Street`s Bert and Ernie. Page accompanied the rhymes with frenetic dancing reminiscent of Pee-Wee Herman.

The band tackled its old favorites by performing them in a humorous five-minute medley, accompanied by a video that looked like a late-night TV commercial for a budget greatest-hits collection. Somehow, the medley ended with the chorus from the Beatles "Hey Jude."

Band members noted at several points that the show was being videotaped for a pay-per-view special. "This is a pretty decent bit of television," Robertson noted at one point. "I mean, it`s not like a Bush-Gore debate or anything like that."

No. The presidential hopefuls wouldn`t stand a chance."I hope each and every one of you have your own TV show or become a talk-show star or a movie star," Robertson told the crowd.

If you do, just hope you aren`t in a time slot against the Barenaked Ladies.