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Sunday, 11 September 2016

Another Point Of View: Barenaked Ladies (Review By Paul)

Barenaked Ladies Tramshed, Cardiff

Sometimes it’s good to have a change from the metal. Back in 1999 I was blown away by the sheer humour and talent of Canadian outfit Barenaked Ladies when they supported The Beautiful South at the Cardiff International Arena. In fact, they were the highlight of the evening by a country mile. Their acclaimed album Stunt exposed the band on an international basis and they became a staple in the car stereo, one of those albums that offended no-one despite the clever and meaningful lyrics. However, due to a number of reasons, and the fact that the band never came to Cardiff again my enjoyment in the live arena was left at that fleeting encounter in a former life.

18 years on and the band finally make a welcome return to Cardiff’s newest music venue, The Tramshed. Now I’ve been full of praise for this place and in particular for the security who are most excellent but heat wise, it was disgusting. Sure, it was one of the most humid days on record but if you can keep the toilets at a very cool temperature you really need to do something about the main hall. It was dripping and there wasn’t a lot of crowd movement. Moist was most definitely the word.

Opening up for the BNL was regular touring partner and stand up comedian Boothby Graffoe (8) whose surreal sense of humour fits with the BNL like a zany jigsaw. No wonder he has been a staple of the band’s touring itinerary for so many years. Joined by Jim Creegan and Kevin Hearn for a couple of numbers, Graffoe did a magnificent job of loosening the crowd up for the main event with much chortling around the venue.

A relatively quick turnover allowed time to grab a quick Butcombe Gold (always a pleasure to find a venue that sells more than Carling!) and just after 9:00pm the Barenaked Ladies (10) entered the stage in their usual unassuming style. What followed was just superb. At just under two hours the value for money was top notch. Musically, BNL range from alt rock to rap to reggae through to lounge room all served up with a huge side of ironic observations and humour. The band, led by the charismatic Ed Robertson on vocals and guitar, are exceptional musicians. Hearne for example, has no difficulty switching from guitar to keyboards whilst delivering a Gene Wilder tribute. Bassist Jim Creeggan’s enigmatic style is contagious as he switched from double bass to bass guitar whilst adding some fine harmonies. And all of this anchored by the powerhouse on the drums, the fantastic Tyler Stewart who contributes immensely, from timekeeping to backing vocals to wisecrack  quips throughout the evening.

As sets go, this one had it all. Tracks from many of their eclectic releases mixed with their unique “Cardiff Rap” which name checked the Welsh Capital and delighted the audience, by now close to drowning in their own sweat and perspiration and the very special Prince tribute complete with anecdote that linked-in Sir Tom Jones and Glastonbury. To top it all, the band made several mistakes which were laughed off as “Cardiff starts” and which enhanced and magnified the sheer humility of such a great band. Highlights had to include the three old school songs from Gordon, Brian Wilson, Hello City and the ever brilliant If I Had A $1,000,000, The Old Apartment and of course the duo from Stunt, Light Up My Room and One Week which had everyone singing along. My particular favourites also included the lovely duo from Maroon, Falling For The First Time and Pinch Me.

What also makes BNL so much fun is their observations on life and Ed Robertson’s hilarious narratives about the number of coffee shops in Cardiff and the biggest dog turd he had ever seen on the top of Taff Embankment couldn’t fail to make you laugh. The band have the confident swagger of true musicians at the top of their game, without any of the arrogance you might expect. As the heat increased still further, Ed Robertson dryly remarked that the Welsh for Tramshed was “hot black box” which was pretty accurate. As the clock clawed its way to 11:00pm, the band finished with their traditional medley led by Tyler Stewart on the vocals, allowing Ed Robertson to finish the evening behind the kit. A medley which included Bieber, Celine Dion, The Ramones and finally Led Zeppelin brought the house down. For four such unassuming guys BNL are just totally absorbing whilst on stage. A fantastic evening all round. I’m still drying out mind.

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