The endearingly goofy Canadian band Barenaked Ladies elicited guffaws and singalongs from an audience of more than 5,000 Saturday at Starlight Theatre.
In spite of scoring only one big hit, the band has placed 15 releases on Billboard magazine’s Top 200 album chart in its 28-year career. Barenaked Ladies fans adore the group for more than just its 1998 signature song “One Week.”
The band’s reputation as a dynamic live act is partially attributable to the comedic talents of its members. Barenaked Ladies simulated a quick-witted improv comedy troupe as members riffed on a visit to the Kansas City Zoo earlier in the day. Jokes about the television series “Game of Thrones” and the naivete of children were also amusing.
A word-drunk approach to songwriting causes many Barenaked Ladies compositions to resemble a cross between the work of children’s author Dr. Seuss and sardonic rap star Drake. The band’s witty verbosity provides continuity to its eclectic sound. The band touched on folk (“Beautiful”), bluegrass (“Fox On the Run”), wistful rock (“The Old Apartment”) and pop-punk (“Allergies”) during its 90-minute outing.
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Howard Jones joined Barenaked Ladies for a soothing reading of his 1986 hit “No One Is to Blame.” Jones and OMD, British synth-rock artists who became international stars in the 1980s, are unlikely components of Barenaked Ladies’ Last Summer on Earth tour.
With his white outfit, wireless microphone and optimistic songs, Jones occasionally acted like the inspired leader of a praise-and-worship service during his 40-minute opening set. His effervescent songs including the 1983 hit “What Is Love?” have lost little of their fizz in the intervening decades, but the electronic dance music coda he added to “Things Can Only Get Better” revealed that Jones is aware of recent developments in the form he helped popularize.
OMD was a revelation during its 50-minute performance. Far from obsolete, the group formerly known as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark didn’t allow a smidgen of dust to taint its renditions of seminal material including the groundbreaking 1979 single “Electricity,” the dark “Enola Gay” and the ravishing 1986 hit “If You Leave.”
Joking about the incongruity between the styles of his band and Barenaked Ladies, Andy McCluskey of OMD teased that “this is a Barenaked Ladies techno set tonight.”
Fortunately for fans of OMD, Jones and Barenaked Ladies, each storied act stuck to what it does best.
BARENAKED LADIES SET LIST
Testing 1, 2, 3
Improvised song about the Kansas City Zoo
Peterborough and the Kawarthas
Fox On the Run
Duct Tape Heart
No One Is To Blame
The Old Apartment
Watching the Northern Lights
Big Bang Theory Theme
If I Had $1,000,000
Lean On Me/pop medley
I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll/I Wanna Be Sedated/War Pigs