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Barenaked Ladies put on Enthusiastic and Entertaining Show at The State

May 3, 2017

The Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies played at Ithaca’s State Theatre Sunday night and delivered an incredibly upbeat and engaging performance. The group is known best for singles like “One Week,” “It’s All Been Done” and “If I Had $1000000,” but every song they played was filled with passion.

Alan Doyle and his band, who blend folk and rock, opened for the group. Doyle was an excellent frontman who engaged the audience, even though most did not know the lyrics to his songs. Singer and fiddler Kendel Carson was an especially impressive member of the band, dancing around the stage while playing flawlessly. Doyle led the audience in a traditional Newfoundland song, and pointed out that this may well be the first time such a song has been sung in the State Theatre. The group’s energy was contagious, and they set the perfect mood for the evening’s main act.

The Barenaked Ladies came onstage soon after and started with a few lesser-known songs, followed by a freestyle rap by lead singer Ed Robertson about the group and their short time in Ithaca. Through their jokes onstage and their clear enthusiasm to be performing for us, they helped to engage audience members, like myself, who aren’t as familiar with their newer songs. They spread their hits evenly throughout the concert, the first of which was “The Old Apartment,” a nostalgic rock song. They also sang “Brian Wilson,” an older song of theirs, the theme song to the Big Bang Theory, which they wrote and performed for the sitcom, and “It’s All Been Done,” which has the power to lift anyone’s spirits.

“One Week,” the song for which they are most well-known, was exhausting for the audience to keep up with in the best way possible, and a surprising number of people were able to follow the lightning-speed verses. The last song of the main set was “If I Had $1000000,” which just might be the most fun call and response song ever recorded. Of course, they were cheered on for an encore, where Robertson sang a medley of current pop songs like “Closer” by The Chainsmokers and old classics like “Shout” by The Isley Brothers, after which drummer Tyler Stewart sang the Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” while running around stage.

While the group is very impressive musically, their sense of humor makes them especially excellent performers. They can best be described as a bunch of extremely talented goofballs. In the song “Pinch Me,” where Robertson sings “I can hide out under there/I just made you say underwear,” two people threw bras onstage, and the guitarists picked them up, put them on the guitars’ necks, and kept playing. The band’s current members have been performing together since the 1990s, so they joked around with each other onstage in a way that felt natural and familiar.

Every member of the band is multi-talented; though Robertson stayed mostly on guitar and vocals and Stewart on the drums, between the two of them Jim Creeggan and Kevin Hearn played the guitar, bass, upright bass, piano and accordion. They are also all talented singers as well as performers. Although they are typically considered a rock band, they played upbeat pop songs and mellow, emotional songs as well, so the variations in style helped keep things interesting.

I like this group a great deal but don’t listen to their music on a regular basis, so it means a lot when I say that this is the most fun I’ve ever had at a concert. The Barenaked Ladies are excellent musicians as well as entertaining performers, which made for a very memorable evening.