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Concert Reviews:
The Ladies Are As Barenaked As Ever At DTE
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- The Detroit area has always been what Ed Robertson called "an early stronghold in the Barenaked belt" during Barenaked Ladies' concert Tuesday night (Aug. 10) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. But the die-hards were seeing and hearing a different kind of Barenaked Ladies this time around.

Primary lead singer Stephen Page's departure in 2009 was the kind of blow that usually does in most bands, and it was at least momentarily unnerving to see just four Ladies stride on stage at the beginning of Tuesday's show. But it didn't take long for Robertson and company -- multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hearn, bassist Jim Creeggan and drummer Tyler Stewart -- to smooth over any disorientation and assure the faithful that the Barenaked spirit is still intact and perhaps benefiting from a hunger that comes with having to prove themselves again.

The key moment came during the hour and 45-minute show's second song; following "Who Need Sleep" from 1998's breakthrough "Stunt" album, the Canadian troupe pounded into "The Old Apartment," a particularly autobiographical Page tune but on Tuesday sung with convincing authority by Robertson -- sending a comforting message that the current quartet claims, embraces and owns its past as well as its present and isn't letting one member's absence alter its course considerably.

So BNL's 21-song set still included material such as "The Sound of Your Voice," sung by Hearn, Robertson-led renditions of "It's All Been Done" and "Too Little Too Late," and "One Week," with Hearn and Stewart sharing Page's part and Robertson handling the raps he did in the original. Hearn took over Page's share of "If I had $1000000," a grinning Stewart was gleefully unhinged singing lead on "Alcohol" and Robertson capably delivered "Brian Wilson."

BNL's trademark good humor was also intact, with frequent reminders -- including an impromptu ditty -- that the group still considers the venue to be Pine Knob and Robertson's sly references to Big Beaver Road.

And the concert certainly reminded the local chapter of the Barenaked nation, which only filled about half of DTE this time out, that the other members of BNL -- and particularly Robertson, have played no small role in the group's output. Robertson's "Falling For the First Time" and "Pinch Me," after all, are among BNL's best songs, and the half-dozen selections from the new "All in Good Time Album" -- particularly Hearn's "Another Heartbreak" and a version of "Every Subway Car" with opening act Angel Taylor -- more than held their own alongside the established hits.

There were also some welcome returns to the BNL ouvre on Tuesday, including "Blame it on Me," a Page song from the group's 1992 debut "Gordon" -- and perhaps a subtle dig from the remaining band members? BNL also returned to closing the main set with a tongue-in-cheek, hip-hopized medley of pop songs -- Pilot's "Magic," Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind," Black Eyed Peas' "I've Got a Feeling," Justin Bieber's "Baby" and Katie Perry's "California Gurls" -- that was once a staple but has been gone for a decade, leaving the crowd cheering and the group members' children cracking up on the side of the stage.

There were times when Page was missed, of course -- particularly in the harmonies, which were solid but not quite as rich on Tuesday -- but if this is indeed the beginning of a new chapter for the band, it could certainly notch another winning night in the Barenaked belt's stronghold.





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