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Concert Reviews:
Barenaked Ladies and friends make Last Night on Earth a good one

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Saturday, July 13, 2013

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Few concert packages come as synergistic as this year's edition of Barenaked Ladies' Last Summer on Earth Tour.

The Canadian quartet and his road mates -- Ben Folds Five, Guster and Boothby Graffoe -- are cut from the same creative cloth, blending intelligent pop songcraft, sharp wit, creative showmanship and a capacity for surprise. For the sizable crowd that showed up Friday, July 12, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre (Pine Knob, still, in BNL's vernacular) it was a perfect confluence, the only possible complaint being that each of their sampler-sized sets weren't quite long enough.

That said, BNL's 70 minutes demonstrated the group's growing assurance a four-piece since the 2009 departure of co-frontman Steven Page, with Ed Robertson serving as a more than capable emcee and not-so-secret weapon Kevin Hearn playing more lead guitar than ever before. Though it's ostensibly celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, BNL gave the crowd a generous helping from its fine new album, "Grinning Streak" -- surprisingly skipping the single "Boomerang" but touching on plenty of melodic, mid-tempo fare such as "Limits" and "Gonna Walk" as well as the crunchy "Keepin' It Real" and the buoyant "Odds Are." The new "Did I Say That Out Loud?," meanwhile, bore a resemblance to the group's 2000 hit "Pinch Me" -- which, appropriately enough, followed, with fans tossing underwear at Ed Robertson's lyrical prompt.

BNL also dug deep into its catalog for "back in the day" tracks like "Great Provider" and "Be My Yoko Ono," the latter with Graffoe guesting, while Guster percussionist Brian Rosenworcel provided an extra conga tattoo during "Brian Wilson" -- after apparently missing his guest spot Thursday night in Toronto because he was in his dressing room still practicing the song. BNL dutifully delivered a few of its big hits -- BNL's theme for "Big Bang Theory," "One Week" and "The Old Apartment," while "If I Had $1000000" was followed by a decade-spanning medley that leapt from the 80s (Howard Jones' "New Song") to the past year (Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble," Britney Spears and will.i.am's "Scream & Shout," David Guetta's "Titanium") and finished in the 70s with the Manfred Mann's Earth Band's version of Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By the Light."

The Ben Folds Five -- actually a trio -- also covered a lot of ground during its hour on stage, drawing songs such as the opening "Michael Praytor, Five Years Later," the theatrical "Erase Me," "Sky High," "Draw a Crowd" and "Do It Anyway" from its 2012 reunion album "The Sound of the Life of the Mind" alongside 90s favorites like "Song For the Dumped," "Army," "Alice Childress" and the Top 20 hit "Brick." Guster, meanwhile, mixed glib asides -- Adam Gardner was a championship javelin thrower? -- with fan favorites like "Satellite," "Barrel of a Gun" and "This Could All Be Yours;" it may also be one of the few groups that thanks DTE concert series sponsor Belle Tire.

There was still plenty of music despite the short sets, and if this indeed proves to be the Last Summer on Earth, Friday's show was certainly a fine night to go out on. But here's betting we haven't seen the last of BNL's summer touring concept.

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