Concert Review: Ben Folds Five, Barenaked Ladies, July 11, Molson Amphitheatre

ben folds five

Back in the mid to late ’90s, when Ben Folds Five were at the height of their popularity, I considered myself a pretty big fan. Their catchy piano pop had a bit of a satirical edge to it, but could also be just straight up sincere and beautiful (see “Brick,” “Evaporated”). Also, The Autobiography of Reinhold Messner is an underrated album. While I hadn’t listened much to their stuff over the last few years, I was happy to hear that the band had reunited, releasing The Sound of the Life of the Mind last year and now a live album. Having never seen them before, I was happy to finally check them out, even if it meant giving up a little bit of my imaginary, non-existant cred by going to a Barenaked Ladies show.

Though they were not really playing to their own crowd, I’m happy to say that Ben Folds Five still brought their “A” game with an entertaining show, the highlight of which was “Narcolepsy,” which unfolded into a serious lounge piano/prog odyssey in it’s second half. Another highlight was hearing them play “Song For The Dumped.” There’s a certain pleasure to be had from hearing the line “Give me my money back you bitch” sung in the confines of a huge outdoor venue like the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. There wasn’t much in the way of stage banter from them, but then again they weren’t exactly playing to their audience; I’d wager a good percentage of those in the crowd only knew “Brick.” That said, there were a number of supporters in the crowd and I know I wasn’t the only one who appreciated hearing “Underground” played live that night.

However, the stars of the evening were The Barenaked Ladies, who seemed pretty stoked to be playing a hometown show. As you may have surmised, I’m not really a fan, and the first thing that comes to mind when i think of BNL (other than Ricky’s financial analysis of “If I Had $1000000″) is this clip from Community:

While I may question how fundamental BNL are, I will admit that they have written a few catchy songs in their day and they do happen to put on a pretty entertaining show. Early on in their set, as the band performed “Pinch Me,” singer Ed Robertson added in a few new lyrics about wishing the Indy wasn’t here and getting stuck in traffic on the Gardiner. Well played, BNL. Also, during the line, “I just made you say underwear” in that song, a number of ladies threw some undergarments onstage. I’m not up on my BNL lore so maybe this is something of a tradition like when people go to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show and throw toast at the screen. Regardless it was a bit of a cute moment. Another nice moment came when Robertson told the crowd a story about him getting stuck in traffic earlier that evening on his way to the show. This shows he is a man of the people as everyone can relate to the pain of getting caught in a traffic jam in the city when you need to be somewhere. He then continued on to tell of how the band’s road manager showed up on a bicycle to try and negotiate his way out of traffic by getting a cop to wave him through on the other side of the road. OK, maybe not quite a man of the people, since not everyone can relate entirely to that. Then finally, he told of how he misunderstood a signal from the aforementioned manager and just zoomed into the lane regardless, causing a bit of fuss with the cops. Which sort of makes him an outlaw and therefore a man of the people because everyone loves an outlaw, right? Well, OK, maybe multiplatinum recording artists aren’t really all that outlaw. Unless we’re talking about Bieber. That guy pees in buckets whenever he pleases, which is pretty damn outlaw.

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So while I went in a bit of a skeptic, i will admit that the Barenaked Ladies know how to put on a show. They elicited crowd singalongs and dancing and had some amusing stage banter, though I will admit it was a little strange hearing the other guys in the band singing former vocalist Stephen Page’s parts. But those songs are BNL songs and I guess the people would probably be disappointed if they didn’t hear the hits. Speaking of hits, it was also a bit strange to hear the Big Bang Theory theme live just because one does not expect to hear TV themes outside of the context of being on your TV, but it was a hit so there you go. I wonder if They Might be Giants play the Malcolm In the Middle theme live or Primus plays South Park. I kind of hope so. After all, you’ve got to give the people what they want.

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Posted on by Paul in Concerts

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