SameDiff BNL

Ladies' Night Out

By KIERAN GRANT, Toronto Sun, November 27th, 1998.

Band returns with sold-out show

Nothing says "success" quite like a tambourine-playing cowboy floating down from atop stage left.

Bear with me here.

It was early in the Barenaked Ladies' sold-out show at Massey Hall last night when this curious stunt came to pass.

There he was, clad in Garth Brooks-style hat and shirt, being lowered on a harness to wrangle attention from the Ladies during their rendition of Shoebox Of Lies — a large, mysterious buckaroo named Tiny.

"All these old halls have a special feature like a pipe organ or something," explained BNL guitarist-singer Ed Robertson after the song.

"This one has a guy who comes down and plays tambourine. You just have to find the right button."

There's a simpler reason why Robertson, singer Steven Page, drummer Tyler Stewart, bassist Jim Creegan, and keyboardist Chris Brown upstaged their own glowing performance of a tune for the sake of a good laugh: Because they could.

BNL were back home in the wake of their conquest of the U.S., where they've sold two million copies of their current album, Stunt, not to mention loads of "Canuck boys finally make good south of the border" stories.

In their homeland, they've gone from being a surprise hit, with their 1992 debut album Gordon, to a fading "novelty act" and back again.

By way of a victory lap last night, they celebrated in the goofy manner that made them famous in the first place.

There was the round of "Meet the security guard," where Robertson recruited a behemoth of a bouncer to strum out You Really Got Me on his guitar; there was their flashing BNL sign; there was Page's over-the-top take on Andrew Lloyd Webber's Memories that had him blissfully, and quite accurately, conducting the roaring crowd like his own personal symphony.

With the exception of BNL's tired rap send-ups, each of these stunts worked, thanks to the easy charm of the band. What might come across as grossly cute on record — One Week, Light Up My Room, Jane — just seemed unpretentious and fun in the live setting.

The band members know each other so well as players they can afford to bend their songs in all sorts of silly directions without putting a dent in the performance.

In fact, the tireless leg work of Robertson and Page, a soaring crooner if there ever was one, often outshone the material itself. Stewart, Creegan, and Brown — subbing in for key-man Kevin Hearn, who is having a rest after beating leukemia — laid down a smooth backdrop.

To the crowd's delight, the group even even delivered a grin-and-bear-it version of If I Had A Million Dollars, though they looked as though they might have been playing it for the millionth time as audience members observed the fan tradition of pelting them with Kraft Dinner for the song. (Signs in the Massey hallways asked fans to place their macaroni in donation bins instead, but not everyone obliged).

At least the Ladies can now afford to have a real live cowboy sweep it up for them.