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Review: Steven Page Performs The Vanity Project

It isn't often an artist or a band comes around that a parent enjoys as much as their kids, but Steven Page (of Barenaked ladies) is one. So when my son discovered he would be promoting The Vanity Project with an in store performance and signing at Borders in Ann Arbor, MI, it didn’t take much to convince me a road trip was in order.

We arrived from Toledo three hours before the scheduled show. About twenty die hard fans beat us and had been waiting since 2:30 (for a 7:30 show).

Knowing they would have a big crowd the store had arranged for a warm up act, Eric Himan. He is an artist who is creating quite a name for himself on the college charts.

He played four songs, three of them from his current CD Dark Horse. The fourth was a satirical gem he claimed to have just written days before, “Why do I fall in love with Bartenders”. I was impressed enough to buy Dark Horse and spend a few moments talking to him after the show.

Eric kept the mood high and whittled away those final moments of anticipation before Steven Page took the stage.

Not sure what to expect, we were thrilled to hear that Steven would be playing for about an hour (a selection of Barenaked Ladies songs he penned as well as those from The Vanity Project) before beginning to sign CDs for the guests.

By the time the show had started there were about 300 enthusiastic fans squeezed into the rather small area, making for an intimate yet excited crowd.

Taking the stage on time he began with “Wilted Rose” from the new solo album. A warm and poignant song, it set the mood and let the small crowd know just how special this event was going to be.

Page explained how The Vanity Project came to be. He talked about how he had a long time admiration for fellow songwriter Stephen Duffy and how the two began writing together.

“Thank you for Sharing” was the next song, a bitter expression of hurt and pain conveyed with the style that is solely Page. This song is a perfect example of what attracts me to Page's music. Heartfelt and emotional lyrics that are easily identifiable. Yes, they are dark at times, but they are presented in such a beautiful manner. The songs truly mean something. Even those that are satirical in nature have underlying serious messages.

The one song I most wanted to hear, “Jane” from the Barenaked Ladies release Maybe You Should Drive, was next. Obviously a favorite of many, it became a sing-a-long. On the last chorus Page turned to the audience for help when the lyrics slipped his mind. He went so far as to bring a woman up to the microphone to finish the song with him, adding to personal feel of the evening.

He then returned to the new album with the song “Glitterbug,” Followed by the obscure “Powder Blue” which is associated with the Maroon CD

A small clip from As You Like It was up next. Barenaked Ladies had the pleasure of writing the music for the entire play which is being performed at Stratford this summer.

“Here today and Yesterday” took the audience back to the new album. This song, like many performed, is one of the moodier ones. Typically Steven Page, it is a reflective piece.

He commented on how he had taken requests for the show on his blog, and that many obscure songs had been suggested for this event. He seemed to follow that trend with his own picks as well.

“This is Where It Ends” was the next song, another crowd favorite that became a sing-a-long. A testament to Page’s humor he dedicated the song, whose lyrics sing of believing and disbelieving the media as well as playing doctor, to Tom Cruise. The tune to this one is so catchy, the song stays with you long after it's been played.

He explained that “So. Cal” was written about the people he encountered living in an apartment building with him while he was recording two albums for BNL. Again, he mixes light upbeat music with dark lyrics. This is my personal favorite from The Vanity Project

He returned to Barenaked Ladies releases with “In the Car” from Stunt. The coming of age song is another gem that I was glad he included. He explained at one point how his renditions of the songs were very similar to his writing demos and reflected the mood of the song before they were turned over to other band members for recording. I especially enjoyed the stripped down true to original form on this song.

“Brian Wilson”, the song that launched BNL to stardom, brought cheers from the crowd and inspired another sing-a-long. It also deemed a cell phone call from my son to a friend so that she could hear her favorite song being performed.

He rounded out the performance with an unreleased song “chorus girls” and yet another somber BNL song, “Call and Answer.” Another crowd pleaser, the spirit of the evening continued with the entire crowd singing along.

Following the performance, Page signed copies of The Vanity Project or Barenaked Ladies CDs. For as long as I was there to watch, he was gracious and friendly to everyone, taking the time to talk to the fans, sign the items, and have pictures taken.

The ride home was spent with a in the car sing along and reflection of the evening. All in all it was a enjoyable evening and well worth the sixty mile trip.

About Connie Phillips

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