For the latest edition of “Last Summer on Earth,” the Barenaked Ladies’ annual summer package tour, the group won’t have a new studio album to support.
It will have a new release, though: a concert DVD/CD called “BNL Rocks Red Rocks,” which was recorded on the 2015 “Last Summer on Earth” tour at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver.
The release of “BNL Rocks Red Rocks” caused the popular Canadian band to realize some significant changes were in order for its live show on this year’s “Last Summer on Earth” tour.
“We’re very aware that we’re putting out a record that’s very indicative of the vibe of the last tour,” singer/guitarist Ed Robertson said. “So this time around, we really want to change up the show. We’re actually going to start the night with an acoustic set, which we haven’t ever done.
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“So we’re going to be stripped down right at the front of the stage and play three or four songs in a stripped-down setting before we go full-on rock show.
“So it’s going to be fun, and we’ve sort of come up with an interesting set list that features some songs that we haven’t been playing often but also allows for four slots every night where we’ve brought in a new song, so that there’s a constant rotation in the set,” he said. “We’re always learning new songs every day at sound check. So every show that we play will be slightly different.”
The set list won’t be the only thing different about this year’s “Last Summer on Earth” tour. The support acts represent a major contrast from last year’s tour, which featured the Violent Femmes and Colin Hay of Men at Work fame as the openers.
This year, two acts that made their name during the synth-pop heyday of the 1980s — OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) and Howard Jones — will open for Barenaked Ladies.
While Robertson agreed that OMD and Jones will put a stamp on the evening both in terms of musical style and era, he said both acts met the main criteria for choosing support acts for “Last Summer on Earth.”
“I think it certainly brings back the synth-pop era,” Robertson said. “But more than anything, it’s about hit songs. These are artists that had multiple radio hits, and in the case of OMD, big songs in big movies.
“They represent a certain time period for so many people, but they continue to work and continue to make music. That’s important to us. It’s not about strictly nostalgia, the tour. It’s about these bands had massive hits in their day, but they’re still making music and still out there rocking.”
The same might be said of Barenaked Ladies. The group, which formed in 1988 in Toronto, enjoyed major popularity with a string of three hit albums — 1998’s “Stunt” (which included the hits, “One Week” and “It’s All Been Done”), followed by “Maroon” (2000) and “Everything to Everyone” (2003).
But then came a challenging period. In July 2008, singer/guitarist Steven Page was arrested on cocaine charges. The band supported Page through his travails, and his charges were later reduced to a misdemeanor and then dropped in April 2009 after he fulfilled conditions of his plea agreement.
Page, though, ended up splitting from the band, leaving Robertson, who had shared most of the songwriting duties with Page, as the primary songwriter. The group, which also includes bassist Jim Creeggan, keyboardist/guitarist Kevin Hearn and drummer Tyler Stewart, also has seen Hearn go through two bouts of cancer, which is now in remission.
The band, though, has persevered, settling into life as a four-piece band and releasing three solid studio albums: “All in Good Time” (2010), “Grinning Streak” (2013) and “Silverball” (2015). The latter album was made right before Hearn began treatment for his recurrence of cancer.
Following up “Silverball” with a live release was actually not on the Barenaked Ladies’ agenda when plans were made for last year’s tour. But that changed with help from AXS Television.
“We had AXS Television come to us and say, ‘Hey, we want to do a special with you guys,’ ” Robertson said. “It all just kind of fell into place, and Red Rocks is such an iconic venue … we felt like the band was really playing great and it was a good opportunity to record.
“We just thought it was a great opportunity to record a live show,” he said.
After finishing this year’s “Last Summer on Earth” tour and a September run through the United Kingdom, Robertson said the group members may turn their attention to a new studio album.
“I started writing about a month ago,” he said. “I got four songs done, and another 22 started. So I’m off to a wicked start.”
Barenaked Ladies with Howard Jones and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark perform at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at Starlight Theatre. Tickets are $25.95-$95.95 through KCStarlight.com.