Watching the Barenaked Ladies perform has always been a good time.  From their early days as a tiny club act to their formidable late-90s sudden takeover of the radiowaves and video channels, they bring a vitality and earnestness to the stage that is seldom matched or surpassed by other performers.  Starting out as a six-piece band, the remaining four members have embarked on The Last Summer On Earth tour, accompanied by 90s rock heroes Big Head Todd And The Monsters, Blues Traveler, and Cracker.  Blues Traveler did not perform at the tour’s DC-area stop at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap on July 11th, but the other three bands more than covered for their absence with excellent musicianship and songs that had the audience singing their hearts out.

Without much ado or fanfare, Cracker started the night off with their semi-hit “Euro-trash Girl”, followed immediately by their three biggest songs, “Get Off This”, “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)”, and “Low”.  Only onstage for thirty minutes, Cracker’s low-key vibe set a good tone for the night; their brand of rock sparked the night off with Johnny Hickman’s lead guitar work and David Lowery’s flip, occasionally funny lyrics and vocal style.  Big Head Todd and The Monsters followed twenty minutes later; once hailed as the jam band successor to the Dave Matthews Band throne, BHTM’s Todd Park Mohr took center stage for lead vocals and lead guitars, ably backed by Jeremy Lawton on the lap steel and keyboards and a solid drummer in Brian Nevin.  The only problem is that to the casual listener, Mohr’s voice has a quality of being very distinctive and memorable, yet a little hard to understand on first listen.  However, that didn’t stop the crowd singing along to “Bittersweet”, “Please Don’t Tell Her”, and “Broken Hearted Savior”.

Finally, when the lights went down and the Barenaked Ladies jumped onstage, they proceeded to play an 85-minute set comprised of hits spanning their mainstream years, from 1992’s Gordon to 2010’s All In Good Time.  As co-singer Steven Page has left the band, singer Ed Robertson is left to pick up songs where he only formerly played guitar and sang backing vocals; no one ever needs to worry if Robertson can’t carry the weight, because he didn’t miss a beat in the frontman’s role at any point during the show.  Playing some of their mellower songs (“Blame It On Me”, “I Don’t Get It Anymore”, “Easy”) had the crowd relaxing in between musical shots to the head (“One Week”, “The History of Everything (The Theme from The Big Bang Theory)”, “Pinch Me”, “Too Little, Too Late”), with their playful side always being a factor in their presentation.  Keyboardist/guitarist Kevin Hearn’s subtle musical interjections combined with drummer Tyler Stewart’s manic performance gave Robertson and bassist Jim Creeggan lots of fodder to play with, especially with their improvisational bit about Wolf Trap being a “cougar” trap…  And God bless the American Sign Language interpreters at the side of the stage; the band had a lot of fun playing good-naturedly and comically with these interpreters, making the audience howl with laughter.

It is true that former vocalist and instrumentalist Steven Page brought a lot of energy and a terrific voice to the Barenaked Ladies.  Without Page, the group does seem to have lost a little in the overly-wacky stunt-filled show department; instead, the group seems to have matured and grown into their new roles as musicians and entertainers.  While the youthfulness of the band in its heyday is missed, the grown-up version of it knows how to put on a good show and give us good music.  Let’s just hope that it’s not the last summer on Earth for them, because if their new song “Boomerang” is any indication, their next album should be quite a corker.

FINAL GRADE:  A

Reel Film News Concert Recap by Eddie Pasa
Photos by William Ayres

To see the high resolution images of the pictures, simply click the thumbnails and then click on the picture and you will be taken to the full-size image file.

All images are copyright Bill Ayres and Reel Film News.

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