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Barenaked Ladies
A Concert Review

[More Photos From the Show]

December 27, 1996

The Riviera

Chicago, IL

A Review by Stu Gotz &
The Dude on the Right
Photos by The Dude
From The Dude on the Right:
Back in May of 1996 I was looking for a band to review and I saw an ad for this group called Barenaked Ladies playing at the Riviera in Chicago in early June. I had never heard of them before, never heard a song from them, and almost didn't go to the show. The review I wrote for that show (hey, use your link above to that review), was, in all respects, pretty cheesy because all I really did was list my notes, line by line, and give a little summation that this band was a blast. At that show I felt lost, like I almost didn't belong, because it seemed that everyone in that crowd knew every word to every song, and I was left standing alone, in the back of the theater, being interrupted by these guys who one, wanted to know what I was writing, and two, looking for girls. Even though lost, I had such a great time at this show that the next day I searched out and found a BNL CD called "Born on a Pirate Ship" and could now call myself a fan.

Then, in August/September, the news spread around the internet like wild-fire - Barenaked Ladies were coming back to Chicago in early October. Excited, I was ready to go, then all of a sudden the Chicago show was canceled, the closest show was in Dekalb, IL, and I couldn't go because I was already committed to seeing another band. I looked and looked, and finally my prayers (alright - I really didn't pray they would come back, but I was looking forward to seeing them again) were answered and the Ladies were back in Chi-town a couple of days after Christmas. I was psyched.

Steven Page
Steven Page
This time I was totally ready. I had memorized most of the lyrics from "Born on a Pirate Ship" and they had just released "Rock Spectacle" so I worked to memorize the lyrics of everything on there. Now, during "$1,000,000" I would know all of the "crowd participation" lines, now I could sing along with Steven Page and Ed Robertson, and the entire audience, now I could really have a blast because I knew what to expect. But, you know, enlightening comes to people in many ways because, yes, like the last time, Barenaked Ladies put on one hell of a show, but this time, as I'm singing along, I actually started to pay attention to the lyrics of the songs and not just sing them. Which brings me to my only question now, where the hell do the boys get the ideas for their lyrics, and what do all of them mean? I'll address this a little later, but first, the show on December 27, 1996.

I'm taking my place in the photo pit, talking to some fans (they wanted me to take their picture, so I did - I'm such a nice guy sometimes), the security dude is a fan too, and didn't know they had the new CD out (he said he'd go pick it up now that he knew), and commented how he doesn't mind the macaroni, but when it's hot and sweaty that powdered cheese gets really nasty. I'm looking at the set-up and see I'll get to take some photos during their acoustic set ("damn," I think to myself, "no chance of getting a shot of Steve doing a somersault or one of those classic 'jump up in the air' moves that impressed me last time.") The lights go down, sure enough it's the acoustic set, and "Hello City" fills the air followed by "Life, In a Nutshell" and I'm singing and snapping away. The band is tight, the crowd is singing along, and the band kicks into one of their many side-tracks, and then Steve introduces a B-side called "Just Me." (at least that was the main lyric I caught - at home I tried to put my CD in upside down to hear the song, but oddly enough that didn't work). (I've been corrected, the songis called "Trust Me" and is on the Shoebox EP) Although it took an extra month or two, I'm glad, and so is the crowd, that Barenaked Ladies are back in Chicago.

What makes a BNL show so special - well, it's as much about the music as it is about the city the band is playing in. See, musically talented, the boys from Canada will always add some hometown flavor to a show - and it makes each show different and gives each fan something they can call special. This show was no different. After "These Apples," the band starts to explain "Rock Spectacle," the endless questions they receive regarding the location of the Briar Street Theatre ("It's in fucking Chicago" tends to be the common answer), and why some of it was recorded in Chicago. Their explanation centers around Chicago being a "Bratwurst Town" and proceed to one of the Chicago local favorites, I'll call "The Brat Song."

Ed Robertson
Ed Robertson
With the Christmas theme, the band did some caroling, a nice rap version of "Joy to the World" during the Biz Mar Que/Alanis/ and now "Marcarena" mix, and continued into the night hitting a lot of the crowd-pleasing (although I think just about everything they play is a crowd pleaser) songs, even my new favorite song "What a Good Boy." Comic interludes abounded when someone tossed a monkey (not a live monkey - a stuffed toy monkey) on stage during "$1,000,000" and Steve stuck it down his pants and out his zipper. All in all, some twenty songs later, the night was over, the macaroni was all tossed, and Barenaked Ladies secured me into being a lifelong fan.

About the only thing I will say that this show missed upon was a little bit more spotlighting of the musical talents of the band that the last show I saw covered. No real solos or instrumental jams were in place this night, and they did have a few more comical interludes the last time, but I guess the one thing you can say about Barenaked Ladies is I don't think two shows are ever alike. That's always cool. I did miss not hearing "Break Your Heart" (hooray for the live CD), and missed "Be My Yoko Ono" that I remember from the last time (guess I'll have to break open the piggy bank and hit the CD racks), but I guess they can't play everything.

I'll give the rating really quick, then burst into a little more enlightening/confusion, but here's another one of those bands that will probably, till the end of time, get TWO HUGE, MACARONI AND CHEESE, WHAT'S WRONG WITH A REAL GREEN DRESS, STOMP ON THE FLOOR FOR FUN, AND WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT SONG REALLY MEAN THUMBS UP!!! Which gets me to my next point (boy, am I just in a typing mood or what?).

The more I listen to Barenaked Ladies, the more I like what I hear, but for once, the more I get confused. See, I usually just sing lyrics, like catchy songs, and don't really pay attention to the meanings too much. My personal belief is yes, many times a songwriter pens lyrics to mean something, but most people read way too far into a song. Sometimes the meaning just jumps out and bites me on the ass, and if not, I either just like a song or don't. But why am I confused? Well, as much as it is sort of the band's fault for writing the lyrics, I blame the internet too. See, I'm jumping around and there is this documentary out there on the meaning found in "These Apples." I'm reading, and I'm like "Yipes, how does one come up with this stuff?" Then, all of a sudden I'm in my car listening to "When I Fall" and first I realize that this song is about an office building window washer, and then I find myself wondering if it's something more. Then, I'm checking out the BNL newsgroup and someone posts how "Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank" is about some crazed Anne Murrey stalker.

Probably, for one of the first times in my life, I am finding myself looking/reading/analyzing lyrics and not just liking, or disliking a song, for, well, being a song. That's not to say I still don't like or dislike a song no matter what the lyrics mean, but I am confused, I am enlightened, and it's all Barenaked Ladies fault. Thanks guys, I think.

Sorry for the long ranting and raving, but that's it for this one!! Stay tuned for Stu's view, and his is more about the view, but I'm The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!

Now the view from Stu:
The conversation went something like this:

BNL Photo 4
"Hey Stu, wanna go see Barenaked Ladies?" said the Dude On The Right.
"Hell Yeah! But can we stop at a Cash Station first so I can get some lap dance money?" I replied.
"Huh? Oh, no no no… I meant the band, Barenaked Ladies."
"Who are they?"
"A couple of 30-something year old guys that feature an accordion in their music."
"What are you?!? On crack, or something?"
"No! Trust me. They're real cool! Plus there'll be tons of perky college chicks there."
"Lead the way!"

All that being said we jumped into the DOTR's spiffy new Ferrari and headed out to catch the Barenaked Ladies. It was a cold night in Chicago as I got padded down at the Riviera Theater's front doors. "What's with the pat down?" I asked security. "We want to make sure you don't have any macaroni" was their answer. I thought they were just being smart asses, but the DOTR later explained that during one of the BNL songs they refer to "Kraft Dinner" and people like to throw macaroni at the stage. "How Rocky Horror Pictureshow-esque" I thought to myself.

I don't remember any macaroni hitting the stage but the DOTR sure was right about all those perky college women. Too bad it was winter here in Chicago and all that perkyness was covered by ugly bulky sweaters. Anyway, there were about 3 ladies for every 2 guys, and the best part was they weren't those "artsy" type of women. No way! These chicks were beer drinkers and boy did they put away the suds. One girl, in fact, drank so much that she spent the entire show with her head in a garbage can puking. A very classy babe indeed.

This was my first encounter with Barenaked Ladies (the band), and I gotta say that I had really enjoyed their musical renderings. Their lyrics are often satirical, like the song they did about the Jackson family. It had me ROTFLOL (Rolling On The Floor Laughing Out Loud). Then there are their amusing antics on stage. The guys like to kid each other about stuff like moles and body hair, and they're not even above doing a little gymnastics if it pleases the crowd (like when the lead singer decided to do some somersaults across the stage). I think that's the key to the BNL. They enjoy pleasing their audience. These guys seem like they're having tons of fun on stage, so I guess they still enjoy entertaining and haven't been corrupted by the mighty dollar (yet). As far as their music goes… It's upbeat. It's funny and fun just to stand there listening to, or even breaking out into a subtle polka step when they sing the "Bratwurst Town" song. If I had to compare it to someone you, the reader and non BNL fan, may be more familiar with I'd have to liken them to… Hmmm… Imagine if Simon and Garfunkel had a jam session with the Grateful Dead down on Sesame Street. To me that would probably be a lot like a BNL concert. Cool tunes, smooth grooves, fun lyrics, and a good time to be had by all.

Not since the last time I saw The Nerds, out on Long Beach Island, NJ, have I enjoyed a band so much. I liked Barenaked Ladies (the band) and can't wait to see them again! In the mean time I just have to listen to their live CD, "Rock Spectacle" which I picked up the day after the show at my local Best Buy (why pay more?). I give these boys from Toronto (bare naked ladies can be found everywhere, if you're lucky, but the band hails from way up north) TWO HUGE THUMBS UP with a pint of Kokanee (a really good beer from British Columbia) and I'm Stu Gotz, aye!


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