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A Barenaked Christmas

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My rather excellent run of live concerts this year was capped off with The Barenaked Ladies, performing “Hits and Holiday Songs” with the KW Symphony, at Centre in the Square last Sunday.

Barenake Ladies: Hits and Holiday Songs

Jean was a bit puzzled at my interest in this one, as I don’t exactly idolize this band. But I had been thinking for a while that I wouldn’t mind seeing them in concert. I definitely like the albums and songs of theirs that I have (which is probably only the obvious ones), and I figured their humorous approach to performance would make their live show fun. So when a local concert was announced, I didn’t wait long to get tickets.

A seating segue

As a symphony subscriber, I was able to get tickets in advance. I went with seats in row 2, which were actually cheaper than seats in rows 3 and back. They were using symphony seat pricing, you see, and generally it is less desirable to be in the first two rows, looking up at the conductor’s backside. They had not adjusted for the fact that we would, in this case, be looking at a rock band’s front side.

But ticket sales were ultimately very brisk for this one, and about a month prior, they decided to add a whole section of seats in front of us. They did call to warn us about that, but also said we had the option of exchanging our current seats (which would now be row 10) for ones more up front. Sure, I said, do that.

What they failed to mention, though, is that my switch would also involve being moved way off to the side. Maybe because the added front rows were a premium price (as would be typical for a rock concert) that I hadn’t paid? At any rate, I was not too impressed.

The first half

But then a weird thing happened. Despite the show being completely sold out, with no bad weather or anything to keep ticket holders away, huge swatches of seats in my row (and only in my row) ended up empty as the concert began, with the song “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”.

Now, I love that song. So I couldn’t resist scooting over to those better, empty seats, to see that performance from a straight angle.

Then I scooted back, as they were seating latecomers after that song. (Whom the Ladies mocked. “You just missed a Canadian classic! But I’m sure you enjoyed that dessert!”) But my row remained full of empty seats. So on the opening chords of “Another Postcard”, I moved back, and stayed there the whole first half.

Jean did not follow me, so I figured I must look like the sad girl with no friends, sitting by myself. I had really was great sightlines though. And I was still close enough to Jean that we were able to look at each meaningfully after this introduction by the Ladies: “Now we’re going to a TV show theme song. I think you know the one: CSI Miami!” [The look was about that being a Who reference, for those who didn’t get it.]

But the song, of course, was the full version of the “Big Bang Theory” theme song.

As I expected, they did some songs I didn’t know, but touched on a few more favorites in this part, including “Pinch Me” and “Brian Wilson”. They joked about what a thrill it must be for the symphony players to accompany them, how they wondered if the very youthful looking conductor was standing in for his Dad, and offered to pass the mike around that each member of the orchestra could state what this night meant to them.

The symphony, who joined them on all but two songs, did add a nice depth to their sound (which all carried beautifully in that hall, of course), and I must say I was impressed with the musical skill of the band as well, as they switched instruments regularly throughout the set: guitar, banjo, accordion (“Symphony players always get particularly excited when we bring out the banjo and accordion ), double bass, electric bass, various keyboards, various percussion instruments… They have some hard-working roadies, keeping track of all that!

The second half

For the second half I discovered that others in the audience felt so bad about me sitting alone that they decided to join me. That is, people from rows further back moved down into my row, and Jean and I (and the two people who had been sitting even farther to the side) moved in to that row, so it ended up much fuller, and those great seats didn’t go to waste.

So on behalf of all us, thank you to whatever group in row CC wasn’t able to make it that night.

Not that the first half was dour, but the second half was particularly lively, with the Ladies doing some extra chatting with the audience and additional lyrical improvisation, and the crowd down front there getting increasingly screechy and excited! I may not idolize The Barenaked Ladies, but it’s clear that some people do! (Jean said he had never experienced such raucous behavior at that venue before.)

(Too bad the ushers remained a bit of a downer, with their constant reminders not to take photos. We didn’t even try.)

In the second half, the band “brought the menorrah to Christmas” with the song “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah”, which I don’t think I knew before, but was as awesome as they promised. And then a song about the “true meaning of the season”, called “Shopping”. They interrupted at one point to play a game of “Meet the orchestra”, in which a couple violin players were interviewed and lightly mocked. On her hobbies of “sewing, knitting, and yoga”, Ed Roberts exclaimed, “Oh my God! You look so young for your age! I play the violin, and I sew, and knit, and with a little side of yoga!”

“Jingle Bells” was first played as though it was a terribly serious and somber song, before seguing into its usual bouncy rendition. They performed “Light Up My Room”, which I love (such a beautiful song for such a weird subject—living too close to a hydro line), but was not expecting to hear. (I guess it was a hit?) And of course, “One Week”, one of the many times I was also impressed with their vocal skills, both tonal quality and ability to enunciate so many lyrics so quickly.

During the inevitable “If I Had a Million Dollars”, the Kraft dinner line was converted into “stuffing the Christmas turkey full of KD!” And they ended on this crazy-ass but awesome medley of a bunch of hits songs, complete with “boy band” dance steps. Most of the referenced tracks, I can’t name, but I do know they included “Call Me Maybe” and ended with “Don’t Stop Believing”. And the symphony played along with the whole thing. (“I’m sure it was Jarek’s dream, when he immigrated from Poland to Canada as a violin player, that he’d one day get to play Journey tunes with the Barenaked Ladies.”)

Encore

This lively finale gave rise to a request for more—we were already all standing, anyway! The finale was Feliz Navidad, featuring the drummer on vocals. They returned for more applause and to shake hands with those out front, but that was it for tunes. A very entertaining evening indeed. (And Jean liked it, too!)

3 thoughts on “A Barenaked Christmas

  1. I have seen the BNL’s twice in concert – once when they were just beginning their rise to fame and then a few years ago to see their Christmas show. I play their Christmas album for my Grade 3 students and they love it, as well! Both times included Steven Page… how was it without him?

    • Forgot to note that there were a lot of kids at that concert. A rare time we weren’t younger than the average age.

      As for Steve Paige’s absence… I’ve never seen BNL in concert before, so can’t compare to when he was there. The other members of the band took over his vocal lines. Seemed to me it worked fine…

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