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Concert Review: Barenaked Ladies Rock Borders (Ann Arbor, MI)

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Borders Book Stores (Especially the one in Ann Arbor, Michigan) has this cool program; artists and bands play short acoustic sets for free before doing a CD signing. The kids and I have made the forty-five minute drive up the highway a few times now, and when it was announced that Barenaked Ladies would be appearing, it was a must see.

As with most General Admission shows, getting there early is a necessity if being able to see is anywhere near as important as being able to hear. In this case, arriving shortly after the store opened at 9:00 AM (for the 12:30 show) meant we were behind nearly 100 other die-hard fans. By 11:30, the second floor of the bookstore was at capacity, crowded and enthusiastically awaiting the appearance of "the ladies." Shortly before 12:30, it was announced that the first three songs and short Q & A with the band would be simulcast as part of the Ann Arbor's 107.1 Studio A2 On The Road. As the band appeared from behind the backdrop, the appreciative cheers of the enthusiastic crowd drowned out anything the broadcaster was trying to say.

To the warm reception, the band opened with "Old Apartment"; a single from their album Born on a Pirate Ship. The song, which is almost tailor-made for an acoustic set, was performed with top-notch vocals backed with strong drum and guitar lines and with Kevin Hearn just knocking it out on the keyboard. A crowd favorite, it quickly became something that could be compared to a campfire sing-a-long… with a full band.

After the DJ introduced the band members one by one, he questioned them about their latest CD Barenaked Ladies Are Me and the multiple formats the album is available in. As he tried to continue the interview, Ed Robertson started fiddling with the guitar and then broke into one of the spontaneous melodic adlibs the band is well known for. "We're here with Martin Bandyke and we'd like to tell you we're going to rock the mic at Borders/ Generally we're resistant to all kinds of journalism, I have a specific problem with reporters/ …" continuing on for several phrases before throwing it to Steven Page on the key words "Paper Chase" where he picked up the improvisation.

Immediately following the improv, the band flowed right into "Easy", which is the first single off their new album. The song has the rhythm and flow that lends itself to the crowd clapping along and they did through the introduction and first few lines. Shortly in, they faded away so  those in attendance could fully appreciate the harmonious vocal arrangements, only to return during the guitar solos.

The DJ returned to ask more questions about the new album and the time involved in writing 29 songs. Steven Page explained what most fans already know; many of the songs are older tracks which never found their way onto an abulm. Now the band is on it's own label and is able to include some personal long-time favorites. Unable to keep the tone serious, they continued to joke around until Bandyke let them get back to what they were there for.

"Wind it Up," the second single from Barenaked Ladies Are Me, came next and met with an equally warm reception. With the new tracks, it seemed the audience was trying to pay extra close attention in order to absorb them. I also noticed the band stayed pretty true to the album version of the song and used a lot less improvisation than they did on the newer tracks.

After the station signed off, it was back to the music for those who had made it to the second floor of Borders. They broke into "Brian Wilson" and almost from the first note I believe every last soul of the 500 in attendance was singing along. On the first chorus, the instrumentation faded to nothing and the masses singing was something pretty incredible to hear.

In the introduction of the next song, they spoke just a moment about how they were big fans of the Detroit Rock sound and how this song was a tribute to that sound. They then broke into "Sound of Your Voice" from the new album. Their description fits the song pretty well and they bebopped it up even a bit more, giving Hearn an extended keyboard solo. On first listen to the CD, this was the song that stood out above the rest and it hasn't lost one bit of its appeal with repeated listening. If the crowd's reaction was any gage, I'm not alone and think they should consider this song for the next single.

From the new back to the old, "One Week" was up. They performed what I'm told is known as the "Bluegrass" version. Played a bit slower, it was easier for the fans to sing along. The song hails from the Stunt album and coincidently spent one week at the top of the charts. The album and the song helped BNL breakout in America and it was the perfect end to a perfect acoustic set.

They closed the show reminding the fans that they would be back in the area at the Palace of Auburn Hills in just a few weeks and invited everyone to attend. If you're a fan of Barenaked Ladies and have yet to see them perform live, you are really missing something special. To find out when the band will be playing in your area, check their official website and their Myspace page.

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About Connie Phillips

  • http://www.gpb-katie.blogspot.com Katie McNeill

    sounds like you had such a great time.

  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    It was a lot of fun, and the music was terrific.