BNL and Vertical Horizon at Tweeter
The Barenaked Ladies put on an amazing show with all of their characteristic improvisation and humor on Sunday, July 22, at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield.
Sarah Harmer, with her lucid voice and acoustic guitar, took the stage at 7 p.m. Though she lacked stage presence, she clearly enjoyed performing. The style of her folk tunes ranged from the mellow “Oleander” to a piece with more speed and bass called “Don’t Get Your Back Up.”
The crowd greeted the second opening act, Vertical Horizon, with enthusiasm. “Good even’ Massachusetts! Hello!” lead singer Matt Scannell said as they opened with the soul- searching “Finding Me” and the single “You’re A God,” which had the audience singing along. “Candyman,” an older song off their Live Stages and Running on Ice LPs, proves that not all bass parts must be boring. The piece features a solo by bass player Sean Hurley, as well as dueling riffs between Hurley and Scannell on electric guitar.
The band tamed the charged atmosphere a bit with a reflective piece called “The Best I Ever Had,” and then kicked heart rates back up with the fiery intro and multiple jam sessions of “Shackled,” for which guitarist and founding member Scannell provided the core with his expressive voice. He dedicated “The Man Who Would Be Santa” to his father, and showed off his guitar skills in solos that hit high, piercing notes. Returning to recent hits with “Send it Up,” Scannell then declared, “You guys are crazy!” before the flashing lights and rocking introduction of “We Are.” The crowd stood and sang as Vertical Horizon played its breakthrough single and last piece of the night, “Everything You Want.” With a final short riff they exited the stage.
The main attraction began with Barenaked Ladies’ keyboardist Kevin Hearn playing organ music on a set adorned with circus colors. The other members of the band entered the stage and set things in motion with the ironic “Never Do Anything.” They followed with an equally energetic and similarly themed piece, “It’s All Been Done,” from the album Stunt. They stepped back to Born On A Pirate’s Ship with “Old Apartment,” during which the black screen covering the back of the stage lifted to reveal a huge joker’s face, as well as a projection screen that showed the Ladies as they performed. Ed Robertson, one of the lead vocalists and guitarists, addressed the crowd: “If you’re like me, then you have no problem getting up in front of thousands of people in your pajamas.” He talked about Boston and whale watching, and launched into an improvised, half-rap, half-song about Ishmael.
The Ladies continued with “I’ll Be That Girl” and the single “Falling for the First Time” from the album Maroon. They subtly changed the lyrics of “Pinch Me,” to the amusement of the audience, who assailed them with various pieces of underwear as they sang the altered lines: “I could hide under there/I just made you throw underwear.” Robertson commented on how underwear is thrown at other bands in fanaticism, not mockery.
After hearing some improvisation, audience members waved lighters to the peaceful, lyrical new song, “I Don’t Get It Anymore.” A huge, flashing BNL sign lowered during “Alternative Girlfriend,” from the album Maybe You Should Drive. The sign gave Robertson yet another opportunity to improvise as he thanked Boston for donating it as part of their “Boston Needs Lettuce” campaign. He then commented that the Ladies were currently campaigning for “Toronto Beets.”
The Ladies returned to rock and roll style and pulled out the dance moves for the song “Get in Line,” from the “King of the Hill” soundtrack. Page and Robertson kept up the frenetic energy by trading vocals in “Some Fantastic,” from Stunt.
The band kept the audience on its toes by unexpectedly launching into an electric bass solo by Jim Creegan, and then “One Week,” the smash hit single from Stunt. Robertson utilized his micromachine man talents for the incredibly fast lyrics. A rollicking “Too Little Too Late,” and the Ladies were ready to bring out the ‘old school’ hits featured on their Rock Spectacle album: “Break Your Heart,” “Shoebox,” and the set list favorite, “If I had a Million Dollars,” which featured snippets from various other old songs including “Grade Nine,” “Enid,” “I Know,” “This is Where it Ends,” “A,” and “Good Boy.”
Before exiting the stage, the band played to the audience by putting ironic twists on covers of various popular tunes. The crowd wanted more, and BNL was happy to deliver by featuring Tyler, the drummer, in improvised riffs interspersed in several pieces, including “Alcohol,” “Tonight’s the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel,” and “Brian Wilson.”
Solid voices, instrumental prowess, and pure entertainment savvy characterize both BNL and Vertical Horizon. The loyal fan bases that support their originality hope they maintain their quality of their past performances through future tours.