SameDiff BNL

Verizon Wireless Arena Concert Review

By DAVID KLEIN, The Dartmouth, November 21st, 2001.

You might assume Monday night's program at the Verizon Wireless Arena, which included a selection from "Annie," a bass presentation of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and a rendition of a Muppet's "near, far" shtick, had to be part of a "Sesame Street Live" performance. But it seems that Big Bird and company won't be hitting Manchester until Dec. 14.

Throw in some "poop" and "pee" jokes, freestyle rhyming about "Sailor Moon" and an infamous rock icon spouse, and it becomes clear that those Canadian court jesters Barenaked Ladies were in fact the perpetrators of these acts. Supporting their recently released greatest-hits package, the Ladies rolled out a high energy, two-hour-plus, two-encore performance that spanned their entire career. The band joked — and they did a hell of a lot of joking — that this should have been their "greatest hits" tour. In light of their sole radio smash, "One Week," the group now has enough familiar material to fill at least half their setlist.

Ironically enough, a hurried "One Week" provided a lifeless moment in the concert.

While some of the band's routines fell flat, such as a dated medley of cover songs, the group was particularly successful in bringing the fans into the performance, taking the time to serenade a woman draped in a flamboyant gold dress and likening a red-faced father to a character from "Harry Potter."

When co-lead singers Steven Page and Ed Robertson weren't interacting with the crowd, they and fellow band members Kevin Hearn, Tyler Stewart and Jim Creeggan cranked out a bunch of amiably catchy numbers that kept my head at a constant bob.

A smattering of slow tunes, including a cover of Bruce Cockburn's "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" provided well-needed breaks from the band's often infantile antics.

Hits like "If I Had a Million Dollars" had the crowd in check, as devotees felt inclined to throw Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and stuffed monkeys during various cues in the song.

With their recent single, "Falling for the First Time," Robertson belted out a number of amusing contradictory statements, none more appropriate than "I'm so cool, too bad I'm a loser."

While Robertson proved to be the band's primary jokester, Page gave Michael Flatley a run for his money, busting out a series of well choreographed high-kicks and sashays (someone needs to pair this guy up with Jack Black for the ultimate paunchy guy dance-off). At times, Page worked the stage like a first-class diva, peaking with an over-the-top rendition of "Tomorrow."

For all their success, it's clear Barenaked Ladies will always be nerds at heart.

Though light-hearted goofiness proved to be the norm Monday night, the Ladies did shine through on occasion with well-crafted musical maturity.

The moderately paced opener, "The Old Apartment," brought the show to a rocking start with its nostalgic poignancy. The Smithsesque "Call and Answer" provided wrenching, heartfelt lyrics, certainly a rarity for BNL. "But I'm warning you/don't ever do those crazy, messed up things that you do/If you ever do/I promise you I'll be the first to crucify you," Page sang with emotional sincerity.

"Brian Wilson" has become the band's signature closer, and for good reason. The tune soars with a delighted intensity that sets it apart from the rest of the Ladies' catalog.

When it comes down to it, how can you not appreciate a song called "Be My Yoko?" On second thought, how can you not appreciate a group of guys that call themselves "Barenaked Ladies" — even if they are Canadian?