Barenaked

Scintillating

“Nice people having a pleasant evening.” – The official Eks Axis review of Barenaked Ladies, live at Red Rocks, June 19, 2013

How great would something like that look on a tour poster? I grant that sentiment stinks heavily of left-handed compliment, and doesn’t inspire a terrible amount of soul-stirring excitement, but there are certainly worse ways to sell a show, much less spend an evening. If I were asked to write a review of a NOFX show (a band I generally like), you’d never get anything even that remotely glowing out of me. NOFX shows are fucking terrible.

So what’s it like to be surrounded by nice people having a pleasant evening?

In short: Nice. Also, Pleasant.

These are words I don’t usually associate with concerts considering the vast majority of my concertgoing experience involves being surrounded by people who feel compelled to wear leather even in the stroke-inducing heat of the dead summer and teenagers slamming into one another while a guy plays drums at an impossible pace. I don’t really know how to feel going to a concert that doesn’t make my ears ring and extremities tingle from the overstimulation.

But I looked around at the crowd at Red Rocks last Wednesday, and they didn’t seem to think too much of it. They just enjoyed their beers and nodded gently to the totally unobjectionable sounds of Barenaked Ladies.

I couldn’t help but suspect that we all shared at least one thought, though. Where was the chubby guy with the glasses whose voice you recognized instantly because it went, “Iiiiiit’s been…” at the beginning of every chorus in that “One Week” song. We’ll get to that, but first the opening act.

Here’s something your average Guster fan might say: “I like my sorority and I like pot.” If Guster wasn’t the template for easygoing porch music of the early 2000s, they were certainly helping clean out and repack the bowl of whoever was. Which, again, isn’t really a criticism, just more of an observation because they have an enjoyable sound. Pick any song off “Lost and Gone Forever,” their breakthrough album from ’99, and you’ll immediately start craving a pale ale in the sunshine. Guster managed to tour for approximately 400 years on this one album alone while I was in college.

What was funny at the concert was there was a group of dudes a few rows in front of us who were, like, really fucking jazzed to see this mellow hippie shit. They were bopping around and singing along and bro-ing out with each other totally incongruently to the vibe coming from the stage. It was awesome. I felt like Paul Rudd watching his kids play with bubbles in Knocked Up. “I wish I liked ANYTHING as much as my kids love bubbles.”

Ben Folds actually took this during the show. That's me in the upper right.

Ben Folds Five joined next and melted everyone’s face. Ben Folds is like if Jerry Lee Lewis had They Might Be Giants’ off-beat sensibility, Elton John’s songwriting ability and Chris Hardwick’s nerd cred. It’s an awesome show, even though he fucked up a bunch of the words and forgot to account for the altitude. It was the reason we were at this show.

So that brings us back to Barenaked Ladies. Where was the chubby guy with the glasses? Iiiiiit’s been… What the hell? Well, it turns out that guy’s name is Steven Page. He had a massive cocaine addiction, left the band four years ago, and everyone is much happier without him. Good for everyone involved, I guess, after reading a bunch of acrimonious back and forth in the news media for the last few minutes between him and Ed Robertson, the other guy who sings for BNL.

It’s nice the band can continue on… but man, it’s really not the same. This guy Ed comes out and introduces himself with one of the most tortured dad raps I’ve ever heard. I actually cringed while he did this.

The crowd, in all its mundane glory, appreciated it and cheered. These were nice people having a pleasant evening, and there was no moving them from that mindset, no matter how many middle-aged white guys did dorky raps that night, which was more than one, if memory serves.

I eventually got bored and left considering I had to drive an hour and a half to return to the conference I ditched to come see this show, and as I hit the pisser on the way out, they played “The Big Bang Theory” theme song, and then the longest, most fucking endless version of “If I Had $1,000,000” in recorded history.

I then returned to my roots with a metaphorical cleansing and listened to Rise Against for the next 90 minutes. The best part about punk rock is that in 90 minutes, you get to hear about 735 songs, which snapped me out of my perpetual motion machine of complacency thanks to the subtle sedation of thousands of nice people enjoying a pleasant evening.

I don’t think I would have been lulled into this gentle acquiescence nearly as much if the chubby guy with glasses were there. Iiiiiit’s been…

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