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Concert Reviews:
Barenaked Ladies reconnect with Detroit roots at SoundBoard

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Saturday, March 4, 2017

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DETROIT -- "Boomerang" was an appropriate opening number for Barenaked Ladies on Friday night, March 3, at SoundBoard in the Motor City Casino Hotel.

There was, after all, an air of full circle to this particular show.

The Toronto group, after all, began it's long and warm relationship with the metro area -- which drummer Tyler Stewart referred to as "our ancestral home" -- at nearby venues such as the State (now the Fillmore) and Fox theaters before becoming a sell-out headliner at the Palace of Auburn Hills and the DTE Energy Music Theatre ("Always Pine Knob," Stewart declared). Its downtown Detroit as well as its small venue appearances have become rare, however.

So Friday's 95-minute concert -- the first time BNL has played a public show inside the city limits since becoming a quartet in 2009 -- had the feel of a homecoming of sorts, with the quartet clearly relishing the intimate setting as well as the packed and exuberant crowd on the general admission floor -- as well as the chance to play live after being cooped up in the studio working on its next album. And BNL did what it's best known for, lacing sharp, tuneful pop songs with humor, flashing plenty of chops but with an easygoing looseness that made it evident the band was having as much fun as its fans.

BNL covered all the hit bases, from "The Old Apartment," "It's All Been Done" and a powerhouse "Falling For The First Time" early in the show to a closing barrage that included "Brian Wilson," "Pinch Me," its theme for "The Big Bang Theory," "One Week" and "If I Had $1000000," the latter fleshed out by singer-songwriter Mike Evin, who opened the night with a 20-minute set assisted by Stewart and BNL bassist Jim Creeggan. There were also plenty of nods to recent BNL fare via songs such as "Duct Tape Heart," "Did I Say That Out Loud?," the Creeggan-sung "Narrow Streets and guitarist-keyboardist Kevin Hearn's "Passcode."

The comedic vamping is what makes BNL shows special, however, and the group did not disappoint. Frontman Ed Robertson launched a rap about having to borrow one of Stewart's shirts for the show because he forgot to pack his own, and about his and Stewart's "girth" compared the sleek physiques of Creeggan, Hearn and even Evin. Robertson also made a few barbed comments about the current U.S. political landscape, laced with memories about BNL's two appearances on "The Apprentice" -- including discovering 2006 winner Sean Yazbeck's shared iTunes playlist and its "10 hours of porn."

During "One Week" Robertson also altered a lyric to remind the Detroit crowd that former Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is now with BNL's hometown Toronto Maple Leafs.

Friday's traditional "Barenaked Rap" medley found the group rolling from Bill Withers' "Leon On Me" through Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop The Feeling" and Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," as well as paying tribute to David Bowie ("Let's Dance"), Prince ("I Would Die 4 U") and Joe Cocker, whose "You Are So Beautiful" Robertson sung dramatically to one of SoundBoard's security guard. Stewart, meanwhile, led the encore with another manic medley of "Allergies," the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated," "Alcohol" and Led Zeppelin's "Rock And Roll."

The next time we see BNL it will likely be some place larger. But for one night the group boomeranged to its roots and logged another special night with its friends south of the border.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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