DETROIT -- Barenaked Ladies love affair with the Motor City has taken many forms in many places over the years. But on Friday night (Jan. 18) it found a new vehicle.
Declaring Detroit "the capital of the Barenaked belt -- which is like the bible belt, with swearing" -- the Canadian quintet played the North American International Auto Show's annual Charity Preview, including a pair of songs as part of the invitation-only ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Cobo Convention Center and then a 90-minute concert following the Preview at Cobo Arena. Singer-guitarist Ed Robertson dubbed the black-tie crowd "the best-looking Barenaked Ladies audience ever," but the formal attire didn't stop those who paid $400 a head to be there from cutting loose after a night of sipping champagne and strolling amidst the auto show's exhibits.
And while there have been musical performances at the NAIAS before, the idea of a full-scale concert on the premises was also a new experiment for Preview, whose patrons -- 15,000 on Friday -- tend to leave for after-parties and dinners and don't have a history of sticking around. But organizers were pleased that some 4,000 made their way into the arena for the concert, with many of those hanging around for the entire 18-song set.
As is their habit, Barenaked Ladies tapped deeply into the event during their performance -- a chatty, spirited and occasionally loose affair that played well to the spirit of the night. The group cracked jokes about cars (including a Maserati jag at the end of the night) and the crowd's attire, although singer-guitarist Stephen Page's new beard also drew a ration of comments from his bandmates. Robertson also poked fun at staffers who carred "Ask Me About Barenaked Ladies" signs around the Preview, noting that none of them recognized him as a band member -- or even knew much about BNL other than it was "some band."
The group maintained the night's energy with a focus on uptempo favorites such as "One Week," "The Old Apartment," "It's All Been Done," "Too Little Too Late" and "Brian Wilson," dipping the tempo only occasionally for songs like "Bank Job" and "Easy." Older fans were treated to romps through "Get in Line" and "Alternative Girlfriend," while "Angry People" concluded with some tongue-in-cheek choreography.
"If I Had $100000" was the evening's logical conclusion -- and a nice way to reference the $6 million raised for Detroit area charities by the Preview. And it was evident that those who were there felt that capping the evening with BNL made their $400 that much more well-spent.