[Review] - The Barenaked Ladies: Grinning Streak Tour

Via Sun Media
While some might disregard the Barenaked Ladies as a nineties holdover, this year marks their 25th anniversary as a group. And this tour is as much a celebration of that fact as it is of their most recent album, Grinning Streak. Not just pulling from their list of hits, the show is a broad selection of music from across their career, including early, obscure and eclectic choices, and a few covers as well. And, happily, after a few rough years and recent albums that have lacked their characteristic energy and enthusiasm, the Ladies are back to form. Still irreverent, just a more mature form of it.

Hit the jump for the brief review. Balls!

It's no secret that the band has come through a rough patch. The departure of Steve Page saw the group go through a significant mourning period, and while the remaining four members (Jim Creeggan, Kevin Hearn, Ed Robertson, and Tyler Stewart) kept the band together, it was obvious that they were hurting. Time and wounds and all that, and Grinning Streak is a kind of return to the optimism that permeated their earlier albums. The album shows a greater maturity, and features less of the blatant absurdity that had become something of their trademark. The two successful singles off the album, Boomerang and Odds Are, are chalk full of the poppy punch that you'd expect from the band, but are more linear and grounded songs than say, Postcards from Chimpanzees, or One Week.

This tour really showcases the consolidation the band has went through with the absence of Page. Robertson is now unequivocally the lead singer, picking up 90% of the tracks that he originally shared. Hearn has stepped up nicely to fill in those gaps in the range that Robertson hasn't been able to adapt, and brings a refreshing and entirely different sound to the group. And Tyler has stepped forward to take up more than his share of the spotlight (the encore, which is one of the best constructed walls of sound I've seen in a post-show, is entirely Tyler's show).

If the Ladies' albums have been about establishing a voice for the band, the show is entirely about the music and the audience. Robertson is very audience aware, and uses every opportunity to actually speak with community. Some artists just perform their set and leave, but the Ladies keep an eye on what's going on. The crowd I saw it with started the show very conservatively, but by the end an impromptu mosh pit had formed at the base of the stage. The Ladies even curtailed some obvious joy-busting by the arena security, who were escorting exuberant dancers back to their seats (the lone expulsion being a drunken red head who managed to get most of herself up onto the stage as Hearn showcased his electric guitar skills). Robertson also dots the show with some loosely free-styled rap, making certain to include as many local references as possible (it helps that the Ladies actually venture out into the communities they visit, rather than looking stuff up on Wikipedia).

The show I attended was energetic and electric, once the Ladies finally took to the stage. This was an hour and half after showtime, making space for two opening acts that left me cold, and a stage redress that seemed to drag. The Ladies themselves moved at a swift clip, providing the increasingly exuberant audience with an unrelenting set. They earned my favour by playing my favourite of their songs, a B-side from Stunt called Never Is Enough. Their set conclusion was a monster of a cover mashup, a Weird Al style grunge pop blend of several current chart toppers, including Roar and Wreakingball. And despite Robertson performing the entire show with an admitted throat problem, and that certain of his range was inaccessible, it was barely noticeable and certainly never distracted from the rest of the evening (I might suggest to him that the cause can be found in his show closing sustained squeal). The Ladies were clearly enjoying themselves on stage, and when the musicians are having fun, it's a guarantee that the audience will as well.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


  1. I concur -- the Ladies were in fine form! But, "How did you feel about the opening acts?" she asked with a twinkle in her eye and a smirk on her lips ...