SameDiff BNL

BNL, Laughing at Us and With Us

By DAVE McKENNA, Washington Post, November 29th, 2000.

Novelty acts really aren't supposed to get as popular as Barenaked Ladies, or stick around as long. Fans of the Canadian giggle-rockers, the unlikeliest arena act since Sha Na Na, filled MCI Center on Monday.

Dressed in matching orange short-sleeve shirts and dark slacks, the Ladies looked like a cross between the Beach Boys and the burger flippers at Hardee's. Ed Robertson and Steven Page, the quintet's frontmen, cracked up their fans and themselves with a running gag about the Canadian elections, which were concluding during the two-hour set. They ginned up an instrumental "election night theme," gave periodic updates on vote counts and even advised that America should look north to learn how ballots are properly tallied. "Bet you ours is done before yours," Robertson said, and rightly.

The laughs kept coming when they covered "I Like to Eat Apples and Bananas," a children's song previously performed by the likes of Raffi and Barney. Robertson parodied the Beatles' "Hey Jude" and Eminem's "Slim Shady," while Page, the Lady most likely to head for Broadway when his current gig is up, offered affectionate sendups of tunes from "Cats" and "Titanic."

And when the Ladies got around to playing their own wink-wink singles, including "Brian Wilson," "If I Had $1 Million," "It's All Been Done" and "Never Do Anything," there was both chuckling and dancing from the floor to the rafters.

There can be a cost to such heavy dependence on humor, however. The Ladies sent the crowd home with Page's "Call and Answer," a thoughtful break-up-to-make-up number from the CD "Stunt." Unlike most tunes that preceded it on this night, the encore offered little to laugh about, so some fans were left to wonder if they'd missed a joke as they exited the immense hall.