SameDiff BNL

The Naked Truth

By MIKE ROSS, Edmonton Sun, March 2nd, 2001.

Goofball moments highlight show.

Skyreach Centre, Edmonton
Thursday, March 1, 2001

EDMONTON — It's pretty clear that the Barenaked Ladies are the kind of guys who shouldn't try to be like Eminem — which is exactly why they do it. Because it's funny.

The fact these suburban super-geeks from Scarborough, Ont., are actually good at rapping continues to confound their critics and delight their fans. It's like the Frank Zappa theory: Parody it and play the hell out of it at the same time.

Early in their show at Skyreach Centre last night, the Ladies launched into a hilarious hip-hop routine that contained lines like "(Tom Cochrane) had a famous song, now I'm wondering where the hell that Tommy's gone. Where is Tommy Chong?"

And so on. It brought the house down — which would happen repeatedly in a terrific concert memorable as much for its goofball moments as its musical ones.

A few random highlights:

After refusing to perform Alternative Girlfriend for a fan brandishing a sign requesting the song, they brought the guy up to play the drums and did it anyway. The guy was good, too. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen.

Keyboardist Kevin Hearn sang Britney Spears' Oops... I Did It Again to the tune of the Darth Vader theme. Sample lyric: "You think I'm a liar, I've got an evil empire."

Several pairs of underwear were thrown on stage during the song Pinch Me, which makes a reference to underwear. Boxes of Kraft Dinner are traditionally hurled during If I Had a Million Dollars, which makes a reference to the inexpensive pasta treat. Lucky for them they never wrote a song about deadly ninja stars.

A twisted excerpt from the opera Carmen.

Guitarist Ed Robertson introducing Lovers In a Dangerous Time by saying his mom wrote it.

The heartfelt love song Jane was stopped dead in its tracks when singer Steven Page broke into laughter in response to a wildly inappropriate synthesizer sound accidentally triggered by Hearn. You had to be there. It was a moment.

Too bad that less than 8,000 fans turned up to see it.

To cheers and a standing ovation, the band — all dressed like Wal-Mart greeters (plus an unidentified percussionist who looked like an Italian chef) — made their entrance from the mouth of a giant, hideous head. It was just one aspect of an inventive stage show that kept the crowd guessing what would happen next. That was the fun part. You never knew what they'd do. One moment it's the basic acoustic band — with Jim Creeggan on upright bass and Tyler Stewart on drums — playing upbeat hits like Hello City or Old Apartment. Then suddenly it's a circus of machine-driven chaos. The usual rock concert cliches, like the drum solo, were handled with refreshing humour and skill.

Page was in fine form from the opening song, Too Little Too Late, and continued to astound fans with his vocal ability (and wacky dancing!) throughout the night. One of his best was the operatic Sell Sell Sell, from the new album Maroon, a profound comment on celebrity that sounds more like Gilbert & Sullivan than a pop tune. It may be strange, but it was dramatic and utterly original.

People forget: These guys may look and act like nerds, but they're amazing performers. This is one of Canada's best and most original bands and they at least deserve to sell out a hockey arena in Edmonton. Five years of hard touring in the U.S. since their last Canadian tour has only made them better.

While opening act Chantal Kreviazuk showed up with a full rock band that lacked the magic of her previous solo concerts, her secret weapons were still intact: A remarkable voice and haunting songs like Waiting and Surrounded that can induce chills in any context.