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Barenaked Ladies' "A Very Virtual Christmas," 5 Things to Know"

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Wednesday, December 16, 2020

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Though sidelined, like all other touring acts, by the COVID-19 pandemic, Barenaked Ladies has hardly been sitting on the sidelines.

The Toronto quartet has spent the year active with social media Selfie Cam Jam song performances and other online endeavors, as well as celebrating the 20th anniversary of its "Maroon" album and finishing its next album -- enough work to take a break for the end of the year.

But not quite. On Friday, Dec. 18, the group will present "A Very Virtual Christmas" special that will feature songs, comic skits and, drummer Tyler Stewart promises, some special guests who will join the proceedings. The goal is to spread a little holiday joyeux at a time that's a touch less joyous than usual....

• Stewart says by phone that the holiday special "was a good excuse to get together and play again. We miss it. We miss each other, and being around each other. We miss making the music. So we came up with this and thought we could try to spread some joy and laughs." The group, he adds, also performed some private concerts, virtually, during its time together in the studio.

• "A Very Virtual Christmas" also allows BNL to "dust off" songs from its 2004 "Barenaked For the Holidays" album, most of which aren't frequently played -- some not since the group toured to support it 16 years ago. "It was fun to refamiliarize ourselves with that material. It feels like it's still a satisfying listen, top to bottom. There are some great songs in there -- original songs, too, not just the standards. There's funny stuff and some really beautiful songs in there. It's the whole Barenaked Ladies experience, so we were really happy to be able to get back and dig our teeth into it." "Barenaked For the Holidays" also featured guest appearances by Michael Buble and Sarah McLachlan.

• Stewart, meanwhile, was tasked with writing the skits and sketches that will roll out between the songs. "We're not comedians, but we're known for our humor. In our shows it's spontaneous stuff between songs, but for this, we figured if we're gonna charge people money we should probably script some things and put some production value into it. We had a great time doing it. It was nice to flex some different muscles. I just hope it's funny, or I'll be out of a job, a least a writing job."

• As for keeping busy during the pandemic shutdown, Stewart notes that "you do what you do -- or you parish. We have a really great thing going with our touring operation, so to have that suddenly taken away, just come to a grinding halt, has been difficult for all of us. But we felt like we had no choice. We had to do something. It's just part of who we are, not to mention the income, etc. So trying to stay creative has been absolutely essential for us."

• Making the new album, which is finished -- save for a title, which BNL is “still quibbling over” -- was also a "salve," according to Stewart. Recorded at singer-guitarist Ed Robertson's lakefront cottage studio and in Toronto, the drummer says "it's a landmark for us in many ways" and reflects the settings where it was made. "The album's a varied listen. Some (songs) have that beautiful, like in a rustic location feeling, and some are about being right in the urban downtown and all that had to offer. I hope that it can reflect both of the realities of the last year -- private reflection and escape, and maybe some booty shakin'. That's never a bad thing."

"Barenaked Ladies PresentsL A Very Virtual Christmas" streams at 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19. Tickets via sessionslive.com.

Web Site: www.sessionslive.com

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