Barenaked Ladies and Alan Doyle the greatest kitchen party in B.C. history?

Photo by Matt Barnes
Photo by Matt Barnes

Barenaked Ladies’ Silverball Tour rolled through Queen Elizabeth Theatre last week with a very special guest, Alan Doyle of Newfoundland folk-rockers Great Big Sea.

Starting with the uplifting opening chords of “I Can’t Dance Without You”, Doyle and his new band, the Beautiful Gypsies, were poised to make the night one to be remembered. Despite still having been on East Coast time, Doyle vowed, “We’ll have the greatest kitchen party in the history of British Columbia.” It could very well have been with hits that ranged from “So Let’s Go” (the title-track from his second solo album), “Sea of No Cares”, and of course, GBS’s best known songs, “When I’m Up (I Can’t Get Down)” and “Ordinary Day”. “Thank God for this song right now, I tell ya!” he said with utmost gratitude.

Between songs, Doyle told many stories including the wild sight of seeing someone jump in the ocean recreationally the first time the band played Vancouver. “I saw a fella do that this morning, actually.” From here, they went into “Laying Down To Perish”, a song inspired by a trip to Fogo Island, “where the oceans are very different.”

Barenaked Ladies frontman Ed Robertson made a surprise appearance, joining Doyle & the Beautiful Gypsies for “1, 2, 3, 4”. “This song won’t sing itself ,” Doyle said, encouraging the audience to complete the phrase “1, 2”  by jumping in with “3, 4!”

“It’s a long way to Heaven,” Doyle sang on the straight-rocking “I’ve Seen a Little”. But during the band’s hour-long set, Heaven didn’t feel so far.

After a brief intermission, the sights and sounds of a fully flaring pinball game sprung to life on the big-screens. These sudden stimuli not only tied into the artwork of Barenaked Ladies’ 11th original album, Silverball; they tied into one of the band’s many stories tool. “I played a lot of pinball today,” Robertson, a known collector of pinball machines, said. After gushing over the Lamplighter‘s new KISS game, the Ladies jumped into a cover of “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, which Robertson punctuated by deconstructing the hit’s deep lyricism. “It’s about sex,” he said mid-song. And later: “Again, it’s about sex.” Gene Simmons truly is, as Robertson put it, the master of the single entendre.

Like Doyle, BNL spent ample time leisurely strolling down memory lane. They recalled their first Vancouver shows around 1991, when they opened for Windsor, Ontario’s comedy music group, Corky and the Juice Pigs, at UBC. Bassist Jim Creeggan spoke fondly of the couple of years he lived here in the mid-90s. The band shouted out many of the local venues they’d played over the years. “The Railway Club. That’s still there, right?” keyboardist Kevin Hearn asked. “We’ll be back at the Railway Club really soon.”

All night, fans couldn’t decide whether to sit or stand. The crowd filled the aisles for “Brian Wilson”, sat back down for the more sentimental “Give It Back To You”, and rose again for “Falling For the First Time”. They repeated the motions inconsistently for an array of other favourites that included “Get Back Up”, “The Old Apartment”, “Odds Are”, “Pinch Me”, the Big Bang Theory theme, “Passcode”, and “One Week” (which Jim Creeggan crushed with a devastating bass solo over accordion). “I can feel you struggling over when it’s appropriate to dance,” Robertson said, amused. “I won’t force you [to dance] – that wouldn’t be very Canadian. But if the spirit moves ya, it’s okay.” With lyrics like “Put your hands up in the air / Wave ’em like you care” on the next song, “Did I Say That Out Loud?”, no one seemed to have had trouble deciding their next move.

Alan Doyle, bouzouki in hand, returned the favour by joining BNL on “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”. At this point, fans had to stand if they wanted to see the players play, which included Creeggan taking a bow to his stand-up bass.

After a medley that melded Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One” (which Robertson refitted by rapping lyrics about Vancouver), Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”, and more, drummer Tyler Stewart swapped spots with Robertson and led the encore. “This one’s for the children,” Stewart said, referencing “Drawings”, from their kids’ album, Snacktime. It’s no wonder he led this children’s song: it was easily the most animated part of the night as he ran and pranced back and forth across the stage and struck superstar poses all the while. Robertson banged away like a stereotypical rock drummer in every sense, apropos of the tune’s heavy riffs. The band even worked in a segment of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll”, perhaps the first time anyone – or at least any folks in Vancouver – were spurred by Barenaked Ladies to listen to Zeppelin.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu

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