SameDiff BNL

Barenaked Ladies Sweat It Out In Texas Sun

Warner Music Australia, October 9th, 2000.

To the converted, Barenaked Ladies represent the apotheosis of wisecracking pop-rock and their live shows are a thing of legend. Though band's not-quite-sold-out concert on Thursday (Oct. 5) at the Frank Irwin Center in Austin, Texas didn't have the force to prompt the uninitiated to proclaim the band "the best live act in pop music," the Ladies did not disappoint their fans.

Throngs of fresh-faced listeners bopped and sang along with songs spanning the Canadian quintet's decade-long career. Minus one young woman in the front rows who became a target for singer-guitarist Ed Robertson's playful teasing, love was very much in the air, flowing in equal parts between the band and its adoring audience.

After a disappointing 40-minute set by indie acoustic darlings Guster, the Ladies got their vaunted hi-jinks started without even taking the stage. Over the PA system played a droning Dada-esque poem focused on the title of the band's new album, Maroon, as surreal animation played on four video monitors placed strategically around the stage. The squealing started as soon as the musicians, dressed in matching blue work shirts and jeans, entered from the wings and the lights came up on a garishly decorated stage. The Barenaked Ladies kicked things off with a small handful of mid-tempo numbers including "Alcohol" and "Life in a Nutshell."

The show was a homecoming of sorts for the Ladies, who recorded their 1998 hit record, Stunt, in Austin. They happily reminisced about life in the famed Austin Hotel and "the land of excellent barbecue" before launching into a patented rap about, among other things, R&B sensation Janet Jackson and the fact that singer Steven Page, for all his lyrical dexterity, doesn't have the skills to keep up with Robertson on the mike. Still, both of the band's main songwriters seemed happy enough to be entertaining the masses with their inane rhymes.

Then, appropriately enough, they upped their ironic rock star pose by playing the lost New Wave classic "Lessons in Rhyme" by Level 42, a song covered on the new album. Other musical references throughout the night included Billy Joel's "Piano Man," a taste of Styx, a quick jokey cover of Brittany Spears' "Oops ... I Did It Again" as sung by Darth Vader (you had to be there), some random snatches of opera, and a short monologue about Garth Brooks. But it was the Barenaked Ladies' own songs that brought the best responses, and the crowd's energy surged as the band played a medley of old favorites, ranging from "Hello City" to "Alternative Girlfriend."

The band could have probably gotten away with simply closing the first set — after a little over an hour — with the hit "One Week," and favorites off 1992's Gordon ("Brian Wilson," "If I Had $1,000,000"), but the Ladies came out for two encores. And so, after two hours of high-energy romping and a final rap that started off as Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady" and morphed eventually into the Bloodhound Gang's "The Bad Touch," the Barenaked Ladies sent the crowd off into the hot Texas night sweaty, satisfied, and no doubt starving for a little hometown barbecue.