Barenaked Ladies / Guster

[24 September 2000]

By Andy Argyrakis

The Barenaked Ladies seemed a bit lethargic for the first half of their Chicago set, which mostly featured songs from the group’s latest release Maroon. That record was the primary focus of the show, and the set featured various portions of the album cover and inlay card in life-size format. The maroon colored eye on the cover, as well as a mammoth lemon were huge blow up balloons that hung on opposite sides of the stage, while four jumbo video screens adorned each corner. Such screens depicted the group on stage throughout the set, as well as colorful still shots of the album cover and scenes from their past videos and travel experiences.

The first hour was a Maroon overkill, including the largely unfamiliar new tracks “Too Little Too Late”, “Sell, Sell, Sell”, and “Humor of the Situation”.

The only exceptions to that boredom were the tune “Alcohol” from Stunt and their latest single “Pinch Me”. That track was the first sign of life the audience showed, singing to the chorus that they have been learning over the last few weeks since the track hit the airwaves.

The set got better as time went on, starting with Tyler Stewart’s drum solo during which he sampled the backbeat of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”. Lead vocalists Steven Page and Ed Robertson soon appeared from the darkness after the solo and led the group on a melody of their past hits. “It’s been a little bit taxing playing a lot of new songs so far,” admitted Page to the crowd. “That’s why we’re going to try to play every song we’ve ever written for all of our fans who have been with us since the beginning.”

Page was partially kidding, but also fulfilled part of his promise to deliver a medley of the group’s past gems. The band crammed in very brief portions of songs like “I’ll Be That Girl”, “Yoko Screaming”, “I Love You”, “Everything Old”, “Alternative Girlfriend”, “Stomach Vs. Heart”, and even a sampling of the Beatles “Hey Jude” in a five-minute period. The group moved on to some full-length versions of past hits, including “It’s All Been Done”, “One Week”, and “Brian Wilson”. Particularly enjoyable was their world renown sing-a-long to the all too catchy phrase “If I Had a Million Dollars”.

Then there’s the “Barenaked Rap”, which has become a tradition over the years during which the group performs a melody of modern pop songs sung in a twisted, Barenaked Ladies style. This time around, the guys featured hysterical takes on Eminem’s “Slim Shady”, The Bloodhound Gang’s “Bad Touch” and ‘N Sync’s “It’s Gonna Be Me” within the parody montage. The Barenaked Ladies left the stage after that crowd pleaser to return for two encores, ending with the ballad “Call and Answer”. That tune was an appropriate show closer with its inspirational chorus line and the ending chant of the word “rebuild”.

Pop rockers Guster opened the set with a handful of songs from their acoustic-driven album Lost and Gone Forever. Highlight tracks included “Barrel of a Gun” and the group’s smash single “Fa Fa”. The band also dipped back to their last release for a rendition of their minor hit “Airport Song”, which struck a chord with fans that had followed the band over the last few years.

Surprisingly, the audience really liked Guster, despite the anticipation for the headlining group, and seemed a lot more alert during their set than most opening acts get. Perhaps that’s because the band has been building up a huge following, particularly college-aged fans, with their lighthearted lyrics and party-styled sound.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/barenaked-ladies/