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Concert Reviews:
BNL pays tribute to Gordie Howe at DTE "homecoming"
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP-- Near the start of Barenaked Ladies' Last Summer On Earth tour stop Friday night, June 10, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, the group's Kevin Hearn told the crowd that "It's like coming home here."

And that meant sharing in the pain of Friday's civic loss as well as the celebration of another enormously entertaining BNL show in Michigan.

Good Canadians that they are, the quartet was not about to let the passing of Gordie Howe go unrecognized. The group added the song "7, 8, 9" from its 2007 children's album "Snacktime!" to the set, specifically to honor Howe and the No. 9 he wore during his 25 seasons with the Red Wings. "This is a sad day," drummer Tyler Stewart, BNL's resident hockey fanatic, said, "but you always have the memories. You always have the Stanley Cups. Thank you Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey, wherever you are."

Singer-guitarist Ed Robertson then announced that, ""Tonight I'm going for a Gordie Howe hat trick -- a goal, an assist, and a fight."

It was exactly what was expected of the Toronto band that recognizes the Detroit area as its first foothold south of the border. As Robertson later explained, "This is the area that launched Barenaked Ladies' career in America. It's not just one of the areas -- it's THE area...We will be eternally grateful." And that relationship has hardly cooled; BNL may not be selling out multiple nights at DTE or the Palace as it did during the late 90s and early 00s, but it still drew an exuberant crowd that was clearly not just there for the big hits like Brian Wilson," "The Old Apartment," "Pinch Me" and "One Week" but also more recent fare such as "Odds Are," "Duct Tape Heart," "Boomerang" and the group's theme song for CBS's "The Big Bang Theory" -- all played with nimble precision and tight vocal harmonies.

After energetic warm-up sets by 80s hitmakers Howard Jones and OMD, BNL started off front-stage with an acoustic set that included "Testing 1, 2, 3," "Smile" and "Maybe Katie." The group brought Jones back for a rendition of his big hit "No One Is To Blame," while "If I Had $1000000" was its usual singalong spectacle, with only a bit of Kraft dinner and a few stuffed monkeys, prompted by the lyrics, thrown from fans.

And BNL's good humor was fully intact and on display via some nimble between-song raps (Robertson was not joking when he promised, "We're Barenaked Ladies so it's gonna get weird") and a sly salute to Big Beaver Road. The main set, meanwhile, closed with good-natured medley that flowed from Bill Withers' "Lean On Me" through David Bowie's "Let's Dance," Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," fellow Torontoan Drake's "Hotline Bling," Prince's "I Would Die 4 U" and Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful," which Robertson emoted to a bemused male fan in the front row.

Stewart sported a Howe replica jersey during the encore, when he fronted BNL for another medley of "Allergies," the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" and "Alcohol." Robertson dubbed it all "a sort of homecoming," but it was more like family members coming back to successfully cheer everybody up.



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