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Barenaked Pride's Showing

By JANE STEVENSON, Toronto Sun, May 27th 1999.

Homegrown respect means a lot to Toronto's Barenaked Ladies, who suffered through a major Canadian backlash a few years ago following their initial success.

And now, after a decade in the business, they're once again local heroes.

The spirited fivesome, known as much for their lively performances as penning such humorous songs as If I Had $1,000,000, Brian Wilson and Be My Yoko Ono, have an hour-long concert special tonight at 9 on CTV. Barenaked Ladies Live was taped at Buffalo's Marine Midland Arena last fall with actor-turned-director Jason Priestley, who earlier helmed the video for the band's 1996 hit, The Old Apartment. In fact, the TV special is only part of an entire documentary that Priestley filmed about the group that will have its debut at various film and music festivals.

Surround sound

"We mixed everything in surround sound and it was a full, nine-camera shoot," says group co-founder Ed Robertson down the line recently from a tour stop in Stuttgart, Germany.

But technology aside, one of the coolest things about the concert special is the appearance of keyboardist Kevin Hearn, who's recovering from leukemia treatment he received at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital, and joins the band on stage to play a couple of songs.

"He's doing great," says Robertson of Hearn, who is now back out playing fulltime for the Ladies' various European dates this summer. "We're scheduling regular checkups for him, out on the road, and he seems to be doing really, really well. He's doing the bare minimum — he's just doing the shows and then trying to rest most of the rest of the day. But I mean, it's just amazing for him to be playing with us again and he's really happy to be back."

Robertson says the band chose initially to keep Hearn's illness quiet to give him the time and space to decide how to approach it publicly.

"It was sort of strange," he says. "We were all at the peak of our careers and to be dealt that strange, difficult blow, it was so hard on everybody. Obviously, most of all, Kev."

Now it's full steam ahead for the Ladies, who just appeared on an episode of the sitcom Two Guys, A Girl And A Pizza Place — "We were the Greek chorus, if you will," explains Robertson.

5.4M albums sold

They also performed on last week's televised World Music Awards in Monaco, where they picked up the trophy for best-selling Canadian band after their latest album, Stunt, sold 5.4 million copies worldwide.

Locally, there is a fast-selling July 25 show at the Molson Amphitheatre, with only lawn tickets remaining. The group also picked up three Juno awards in March and sold out two nights at Massey Hall last fall.

"We're excited about that," says Robertson of the Amphitheatre date. "The thing about Massey was we weren't able to bring the whole show into the venue. It didn't hold all the production we were carrying because we were doing arena shows everywhere in the U.S. So this time, at the Amphitheatre, we're doing a full new set design."

So, surely, after all is said and done, some of the bad reviews (mine included) that greeted Stunt are beyond affecting the group? Not necessarily, says Robertson.

"It's one person's opinion but it's a hometown opinion. And we were getting a lot of naysayers at the time. It was just kind of another vote of lack of confidence.

"We were doing so well. We were No. 3 in the U.S. at the time. We were playing to 20,000 people and we were struggling to sell out Massey Hall. That's turned around. And it actually feels better than it ever has now, which is really nice."