sat 19/10/2019

Barenaked Ladies, Roundhouse | reviews, news & interviews

Barenaked Ladies, Roundhouse

Barenaked Ladies, Roundhouse

The quirky Canadians are back on track, with an Eighties surprise guest

Barenaked truth: from left, Tyler Stewart, Ed Robertson, Jim Creegan and Kevin Hearn

Lead singer and frontman Ed Robertson launches into a BNL-in-London rap, extolling the Roundhouse, “where they used to turn trains”, as well as the glories of Camden Market’s liquid-nitrogen ice-cream bar. The crowd, with its distinctly Cold Feet demographic, goes wild for the Ladies – if you’re not familiar with them, there are no women in this Canadian band – and their new album, Silverball, named in honour of Robertson’s pinball obsession, has been hailed as a buoyant return to form.

The BNLs, who've been going for 27 years, are known for their melodic tunes and quirky, caustic lyrics, though the words became a bit less manic after the departure in 2009 of Steven Page, lead singer and co-founder with Robertson (drugs were peripherally involved). Who couldn’t love a band that writes a strange suburban song about not wanting to work one’s way through college (“Never is Enough” from Stunt): “I never spent a single day in retail/Telling people what they want to hear/Telling people anything to make a sale/Eating in the food court/With the old and the bored.” And their harmonising is outstanding, sometimes bringing ELO to mind.

Howard Jones was a cheeky chappie who sported check shirts

The set-list is a mix of the new, from Silverball – “Duct Tape Heart” is an instant winner – and songs from older albums, including “Hello City” from Gordon (1992), an unenthusiastic ode to Halifax, Nova Scotia (“Hello city/You’ve found an enemy in me”), and “Old Apartment” from Born on a Pirate Ship (1996). Everyone knows the words, co-written by Robertson and Page: “Why did you keep the mousetrap?/Why didn't you keep the dish rack?/These things used to be mine/I guess they still are, I want them back.” They’re on terrific, confident form, including keyboardist-guitarist Kevin Hearn, who has had treatment for leukemia, and who wrote the melancholy “Tired of Fighting” on the new album.

Then, after “Did I Say that Out Loud?” from Grinning Streak, we’re in surreal Eighties territory, with the guest appearance of Howard Jones. “Howard Jones, Howard Jones,” intones Robertson lovingly, Wayne’s World-style. If you read Smash Hits in 1983 (the BNLs would have been 13 at the time – very Stranger Things), you’ll remember – of course you will – that Howard Jones was a cheeky chappie who sported check shirts, braces and a spiky two-tone hair-do, and had a white-faced mime artist called Jed prancing in the background on his videos. He had a big hit with “New Song”, but he was always a bit of a joke in Smash Hits land. He’s been touring in the USA with the BNLs and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, another Eighties blast from the past, and tonight he’s singing “No One is to Blame” first released in 1985. And it sounds damn good, with the BNL’s harmonies boosting the whole number. Come back, Howard, all is forgiven. Even the mime artist.

After Howard, we’re on to more Silverball numbers (“Narrow Street” and “Silverball”, both lovely, uplifting songs). I suppose they have to do their “Big Bang Theory Theme” from the TV show though I wish they wouldn’t, but the crowd loves it; same goes for their “Barenaked Rap”, an odd, out-of-place medley of numbers including “Lean on Me”, “Let’s Dance” (really not a good idea) and – oh no – “You Are So Beautiful”. But “If I had $1,000,000” more than makes up for this, as does the fabulously tongue-twisting “One Week”. It was a number one in the USA, and deservedly so, with its unbeatably catchy lyrics: “Chickety China, the Chinese chicken, you have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin’.” Pure magic. The Roundhouse is rocked.

The crowd, with its distinctly 'Cold Feet' demographic, goes wild for the Ladies

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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