Rock Spectacle

Artist: Barenaked Ladies
Listenability Scale: 80%
Released by: Reprise Records
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

I can now finally say that I have been at a show that is on a live CD. See, it was my virgin time seeing, or even hearing Barenaked Ladies, and they say “we’re recording this for a live CD.” I’m thinking to myself, “Self, yea right, I’ve heard that so many times and no one ever seems to come out with that ‘live’ CD.” Well, they weren’t lying. I’m checking the Barenaked Ladies newsgroup and see someone post a notice about a new CD, and that it will be a live CD. I’m saying “Cool, I wonder if any of it will be from the show I was at?” Sure enough, some of the songs bring back those memories of my first time – at a BNL show that is.

Excited, I find the CD, head home, and this time I find myself a little bit more familiar with the style of the band, but my disappointment comes as I realize that five (I stand corrected (thanks Cindy!): four are from BoaPS, four are from Gordon, three from Maybe You Should Drive) of the eleven tracks are from their previous CD, “Born on a Pirate Ship,” and although they add a little bit more to the songs, personally I was looking forward to more of their older material. I was also looking forward to little more of that spontaneity that a Barenaked Ladies show seems to portray, the things like the set of Chicago (the group) songs like when they played in Chi-town, or the Prince cover, or, well, I think you get the point.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the CD, probably a little more than “Born on a Pirate Ship,” mostly for the fact that it does exude some of that energy from a live show and has some of my favorite songs from BoaPS, but being the new fan, and the cheap fan, that I am, (my BNL CD collection now ranks at two – BoaPS and Rock Spectacle) I was hoping for more than five (alright, four) songs I already knew.

The CD does throw in some of the local flavor of a show in the story of the lady and the Briar Street Theatre from the Chicago show and Uncle Elwin from the Montreal show. I will say that, for a brand new fan, the CD does a great job at spanning the musical variety of Barenaked Ladies. From the bouncy feel of “Hello City” to the great voice of Steven Page during “Break Your Heart” and one of my new favorites “What a Good Boy,” someone new can get a real feel for the band. I guess my problem is I became a fan at the time of the recording and not before or after. But, I do finally get a CD with “If I Had $1,000,000” and the next time I’m at a show I’ll be able to sing with everyone else, although I don’t think I’ll bring any macaroni and cheese.

I guess sometimes there are royalty problems in putting covers on a live CD, and maybe that’s the reason for leaving those off, but I think it does hurt “Rock Spectacle’s” chance at showing someone who has never been to a Barenaked Ladies show the real feel of a concert – which is what I think a live CD should really do. The recording is crisp, the voices are mixed well, and all in all the CD ends up in my higher rotation line-up, but, well, I guess just but.

Oh yea, “Rock Spectacle” is also interactive. Yep, pop the baby in your double-speed CD-ROM player and you get their version of BNL TV and KBNL – “Weird Music for Weird People.” I will say this, it does give the viewer a little inside into the twisted nature of the band, and I’ve been following the “Abs of Lard” segment for way too long. It’s cute, and fans will probably get a kick out of seeing it, but, and this is strictly a personal feeling, I think they should have done one of two things with the interactive part: 1) Scrap it all together and put more music from the shows on the CD. 2) Scrap the BNLTV and KBNL – save it for the next one, but add more live video from the shows. And that is my opinion on that.

All in all, on the listenability scale, the only song I can live without is “These Apples” so in those terms the CD rates a 91%. But, being a live CD, I think it misses a notch in doing it’s job, so we’ll knock some percentage points off and give it an 80% on the Entertainment Ave! listenability scale.

That’s it for this one, I’m The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!