GIG REVIEW – Barenaked Ladies at Indigo2 9/10/15

Arriving at the Indigo 02 venue, my tensions to see Barenaked Ladies, the Canadian musical mainstays, were running high. Being directed outside for our press passes and then back in before meeting security who seemed not to know what a press pass was, just amplified the tension. As the rest of the audience piled in ahead of us whilst we awaited a supervisor, I was happy that I had brought a Latvian friend, who was completely unaware of the band beyond their Big Bang Theory theme tune, to come with me and offer an even handed perspective to my fandom.

Once inside, another staff member who openly claimed not to know anything about press passes as well, told us that we could take any seat on the balcony as no seating was assigned. By the time the show had started however, we had been turfed from our seats due to seating allocation and sent downstairs to the back of the standing area, and not politely. So, awaiting one of the bands that shaped my childhood, I stood with my friend and our backs to the overpriced bar whilst being passed by those ordering and with our views obstructed by the many pillars and low ceiling of the balcony. Oh yes, I went in to this frustrated.

From the first note the Barenaked Ladies burst on to stage with energy and sharpness opening with the first track from the new album SILVERBALL. Quickly including old energetic favourites such as The Old Apartment the fans in the room where swept quickly in to a fantastic atmosphere. It came as an immediate pleasure to see the band, so musicially tight and proficient on their recordings, were just the same in person. Striking perfect vocal harmonies, incredibly tight musicianship and all with great stage presence. The band also managed to engage with the audience very quickly with some between-song-banter. There was humour touching on a range of subjects from vaping to restaurant queues to where the prime minister has placed his member of parliament. Best of all, the humour never felt rehearsed or scripted, with Ed Robertson having his observations countered by Tyler throwing obsurdist comedy back. Ed managed to pick out a picture of the new album on the backwall that, when obstructed by one of the many pillars seemed to read ED DIES, all part of the in the moment giggles.

One of the trademarks of the Barenaked Ladies live show has been the just-for-the-night made up rap songs, this concert featuring one about selling out the O2, a joke placed firmly at the knowledge of the smaller side venue within the O2 they were playing. As the concert went on, the band touched on many of the great singles from their career, obviously not having time for all, but not avoiding the occasional album track such as Light Up My Room as well. This ironically was one of the most solid sounding songs live. The Big Bang Theory theme tune and the banter really appealed to my Latvian partner-in-reviewing, despite seemingly not recognising massive number 1 One Week. She seemed to enjoy herself despite being tired from a long day at work, but I do wonder if the slightly under energetic live mixing maybe did not do much to build energy during the show. From the back of the room, I was shocked how little the bass guitar and kick drum really came across. Barenaked Ladies finished off in amazing style with a pop song cover medley featuring many mainstream pop and urban hits and that rounded off with a cover of Let It Go from Frozen. This medley track would have been a fantastic ending in itself, but the requested encore saw Ed jump behind the drums, the band come out with a heavier rock sound and Tyler jump to screaming front man duties delivering some punchy fun and owning the stage with posturing and jumping and just general showmanship. Leaving the venue it was hard to feel that, from the back of the venue even, we got anything other than our full ticket price worth.

As a long time fan, the show covered every single thing I wanted and in a fresh way, as though the band had just come out from their debut. My Latvian friend expressed a thumbs up for the show despite not necessarily being her type-of-music, and there is no doubt the antics certainly made her feel involved. The band did make a lot of effort to make banter with people who had been dragged along to their first Barenaked Ladies show and these moments resonated with her. I can not help but feel this was a fantastic gig for fans and newbies alike and I can not see how anyone could leave not at least entertained. I remain excited for the Barenaked Ladies next show in the UK, hopefully at a better London venue. Highly recommended.

Howard BillingtonĀ 

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