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Barenaked Ladies

Paul Wellman

Barenaked Ladies


Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds Five, and Guster at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Nineties Alt-Pop Reigned on Saturday, June 22


Feelings of nostalgia are commonplace for the shows in which past-their-prime stars take the stage, so it’d be redundant to try and make that wistfulness the defining element of the late-90’s/early-00’s showcase that happened on Saturday night at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Believe me when I say that there was more than nostalgia at work when Guster, Ben Folds Five, and The Barenaked Ladies took the stage on the evening of summer solstice. Not only was it was an immersive cultural experience into the world of ringer t-shirts, goatees, and “comfy fit” carpenter jeans — it was entirely “cool beans.”

Bare Naked Ladies
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Bare Naked Ladies

Boston alt-rockers Guster led off, because having released three successful records in the last decade means have yet to ascend to levels of fame comparable to the other two acts. Despite their early set time, their reception was emphatic — Guster shirts could be seen everywhere, and sections of Guster fans (most of which occupied the upper levels of the Bowl) stayed on their feet for just about the entire night. Boos could be heard throughout thB bowl when they exited. “We want more!” said one fan in a fedora.

Ben Folds Five followed with their eternally pleasing and addicting brand of “piano rock.” Frontman Ben Folds did a bunch of things that one could only call “Ben-Folds-y” — he happily flipped off a camera, joked about mistaking the Bowl’s ushers for “fans of a guy with abs,” and then insisted that we collectively take the world “usher” back. There was even a poignant moment in which entire audience took their seats and sang along to “Landed.” In all honesty, the band probably could have played for another hour without anyone complaining.

The Barenaked Ladies (or BnL) are a Canadian alt-pop-rock quartet (formally a quintet), who are famous for infectious tracks like “One Week” and “If I Had One Million Dollars;” songs that have been featured on nearly every film soundtrack released between 1998 and 2005. And, while they played all the hits, it barely felt like it.

BnL (who, by the way, authored the theme to TV’s Big Bang Theory) joked about Bill Clinton and Yoko Ohno, about ‘zombies’ and ‘mad scientists,’ and closed with a Weird-Al-esque ensemble of pop songs sung to silly music by silly men in plaid shirts.

It’s fair to point out that the absence former lead-singer Steven Page was rather glaring (and undeniably altered the set list), and that the band seemed to get rather testy when some in the audience yelled “GUSTER!” in between songs.

Any criticism that could (and maybe should) be aimed at the cool dads that now make up BnL would seem misguided, because the ‘quality’ of the performances (or the ability to consistently stay on key) wasn’t ever the point of the Last Summer on Earth Tour. If anything, the defining element of the evening could be gleaned from a comment overheard during BnL’s encore, wherein current lead singer Ed Robertson could be seen waving to his son backstage:

“This is the most positive vibe I’ve ever seen at a concert!,” he exclaimed.

Exactly. On Saturday night, the Santa Barbara Bowl was free of any pretension. It was just a good, positive vibes.

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