SameDiff BNL

Barenaked Energy

By KIERAN GRANT, Toronto Sun, July 13th, 2001.

Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto
Thursday, July 12, 2001

They didn't name any names. There was no talk of Olympic bids.

But the Barenaked Ladies did reserve a special poke for our illustrious mayor as they put in a triumphant hometown performance at the Molson Amphitheatre last night.

"Why would Iwant to go to Southern Ontario?"guitarist Ed Robertson deadpanned, putting his own winking spin on the now-infamous comments that landed Mel Lastman in hot water recently.

"I keep seeing myself in a boiling pot of Molson's," added singer Steven Page.

It wasn't all joking around. In between the gags, raps, yarns, improv, Bono jokes, a capella roadies and an over-the-top go at Loverboy's Turn Me Loose — courtesy of drummer Tyler Stewart — the Barenaked Ladies actually managed to turn out a score of favourites that reached from current hit album Maroon back to their first indie release from a decade ago.

The show, which drew a crowd of 14,000, kicked off a 24-date North American tour. It's the latest jaunt in nearly a year of globe-trotting in support of Maroon, which came out late last year and saw them playing a similar show at the Air Canada Centre in November.

And, like every show BNL have played here since they first stunned those who'd written them off as a novelty act by wracking up a massive U.S. hit with 1998's Stunt, it came off like a victory lap.

Page was even moved to recall the first time his band played the Ontario Place grounds 11 years ago.

"Many of our friends who'd come to see us were under-age," he mused.

"The bar didn't like us because we didn't sell beer. Well, now we're playing the Molson Amphitheatre, m----- f-----!"

Score settling aside, Page and company struck up an impressive exchange of energy with the crowd. (The guy next to me, an engineer visiting from Gainesville, Fla., compared it to when Tom Petty plays to hometown audiences down there.)

What arguably makes BNL work better live than they do on disc is that they work every level of their skills.

The band squeezed every last drop of comedy out of their act, riffing with each other in a way that only old buddies can do. A seemingly bottomless supply of gags meant that the laughs rarely get a chance to grow stale.

And, while smarmy hits such as One Week and Pinch Me have eclipsed their darker side, a clutch of smart tunes and some big-time crooning from Page — particularly on a new song to which he forgot the words and had to make up "even better" ones — rounded out the set nicely.

Opener Sara Harmer may have had the ideal tonic for BNL's big, shiny larffs.

Appearing on the strength of her acclaimed album You Were Here, Harmer delivered a characteristically pleasant, subtle show with about one-quarter BNL's wattage.

Set List: