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Ladies Still Have Sense of Humor

By MELISSA RUGGIERI, Richmond Times Dispatch, February 14th, 2001.

They aren't perfectly coifed sex symbols who spend hours with the Ab Roller. Nor are they fashion-conscious superstars. But they are charming. And talented. And delightfully entertaining.

At the initial rock concert at the (all together now) Alltel Pavilion at the Siegel Center on the campus of VCU, the Barenaked Ladies rollicked through 13 years of clever pop tunes.

We'll get back to the show shortly, but first, a memo to concert promoters:
Book more bands in this venue. It's an ideal size for fickle Richmond audiences (7,500), acoustics are rich and full and there doesn't appear to be an unfavorable vantage point. On the bad side, the flimsy bleachers aren't constructed to withstand the bouncing and foot-stomping the Ladies frequently inspired, leading to some moments of nausea, and the cooling system wasn't exactly cooling. But these are minor quibbles.

As for the Canadian quintet, after opening with the new "Too Little Too Late," frontmen Steven Page (the blond, beefier one) and Ed Robertson (the dark-haired one with the impressive rap skills) led the band on a two-hour romp that was equal parts stand-up comedy and musical cabaret.

Their good-natured cheer permeated what are otherwise basic four-chord pop/rock songs ("Falling for the First Time", "Alcohol"), but looking happy onstage is an anomaly itself these days.

Robertson, the more mellifluous of the two, grinned and swayed through the tick-tock joviality of the lyrically reflective "Pinch Me," one of the band's many uptempo songs that mask pensive lyrics. But plenty of bands can pull off that type of manic-depressive songwriting.

What makes the Ladies special is the musical synergy among its members and their combined sense of humor. The multi-talented Kevin Hearn regularly switched between keyboard and lead guitar, while bassist Jim Creeggan (who turned 31 yesterday) sawed and jammed on his stand-up bass and drummer Tyler Stewart kept the tempo steady with tricky drum fills. During a particularly funny segment, a booming announcement notified that "This is not a drum solo. Do not leave the auditorium," while, of course, Stewart was slamming a healthy round on the skins.

On the breakthrough smash, "One Week," with the eternally wonderful lyric, "I'm the kind of guy who wears my mind on my sleeve. I have a history of losing my shirt," Robertson's motor-mouth recitation was pitch perfect. Meanwhile, "Brian Wilson," a song so familiar to longtime fans that Page didn't even need to turn the microphone on, climaxed in a stunning instrumental frenzy.

An extended take on the playful "If I Had $1000000" rounded out the set. But it was the Ladies' other specialty — a medley of pop parodies — that hammered home their inimitable wit. Who else could make snippets of "The Real Slim Shady," "It's Gonna Be Me," "My Heart Will Go On," "Music" and "Who Let the Dogs Out" so hysterical? Even Weird "Al" Yankovic should worry.

It's refreshing to see that even after attaining a million dollars and basking in mainstream adoration, the Barenaked Ladies haven't lost their sense of humor. Stay goofy, guys. You're precious.