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LondonNet Gig Review

Barenaked for the Holidays

Shepards Bush Empire
Shepherds Bush Green
Shepherds Bush, W12 8TT
Tube: Goldhawk Road
T: 0870 771 2000

Interview with the Barenaked Ladies: LondonNet catches up to see how TBL went all "Holidays" on everybody...
Album review: Find out what it's like to be Barenaked for the Holidays...

Cheer On Christmas
The Barenaked Ladies give a little this holiday season, with a festive album that cranks the hearts of adoring fans and gives everybody else a delighful surprise.

The Barenaked Ladies managed to show off all the tricks of the trade that have allowed them to survive in their December 3rd show at Shepherds Bush Empire. All they had to do was have fun, and they did just that, proving that even the biggest cynic in the house could crack a smile.

The Toronto quintet has always been notorious for their live shows which seem to rely on stand-up comedy, self-deprecation, a down-to-earth attitude, and a band-audience rapport just as much as the music itself.

Fittingly, the Barenaked Ladies began the show stripped down (in a different sense). The five band members huddled around a single microphone playing amplified acoustic instruments to start things off with a fresh, intimate atmosphere that felt more like a peak into the studio than a glimpse of a band playing before 1,000 people. After blowing through a few tracks off their unconventional holiday album, Barenaked for the Holidays, including a very danceable “Oh, Hanukkah”, they concluded the low-key part of their set with “Be my Yoko Ono” to massive crowd response. It didn’t take long for singer/guitarist Steven Page to get into the jokey mood. “We’re playing other songs tonight,” he said after playing multiple holiday songs, “Some of them might even be Barenaked Ladies songs.”

Even as the band retreated to their respective zones of the stage, the attitude surprisingly didn’t change much. The band continued to deliver their non-threatening, sometimes excessively goofy, but sincere pop-rock with smiles that were far from fake. Eight years on after the release of perhaps their finest song, the bittersweet, nostalgic and hopelessly hooky “The Old Apartment”, there seemed to be as much energy and power emanating from the stage as for a brand new tune.

The comedy continued along seamlessly, never seeming painfully rehearsed or stock. Sometimes the band even surprised themselves when getting a laugh out of the audience. As singer/guitarist Ed Robertson began a story about finding a piece of paper in his pocket that said, “Do not detach”, drummer Tyler Stewart interjected with “It was your ticket to hell, Ed. And now you can’t go!” During songs to alleviate potential malaise, Robertson and Page kept on their feet, both stopping to pose for pictures next to “No flash photography” signs.

Sometimes Barenaked Ladies tripped over themselves in their comedic efforts. It was an interesting novelty to see the band switch instruments and Stewart take the mike, but at times it was a bit unnecessarily over the top.

The band was able to keep their enthusiasm level high (or at least do a very good job of feigning it), even as they tore through massive hits like “One Week” in the encore. The encore also featured Robertson telling a story about the band’s English bus driver during the instrumental break in “If I had $1,000,000”. It wasn’t all laughs. The audience stood rapt at attention as Page belted out lines like “I wish I could fly from this building” in the sorrowful “When I fall”. Things appropriately concluded with the upbeat sounding, but not completely sunny “Brian Wilson”.

The Barenaked Ladies were able to show their range in Shepherds Bush, and while they can’t connect with an audience the way a band can in a more intimate setting, the fact that they tried and turned out a respectable result is admirable.

Steve Marshall


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