Barenaked Ladies at Mohegan Sun – July 7, 2023
The iconic late 90’s/early 2000’s Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies made their return to Mohegan Sun, as part of their Last Summer on Earth tour. Joining them for the show are fellow 90’s/2000’s hit makers del Amitri and Five for Fighting.
Seeing the name del Amitri meant nothing to me. My friend I attended the show with said “I promise you, you’ll know one song.” As they started out, I still had no clue what they could have performed that I’d know. The first half of their set was more laid back, which frontman Justin Currie said up front that they’d start things soft before finishing the set more upbeat. The Scottish band had a bit of a folk feel through the first handful of songs in their set. The members were all multi-instrumental, with Andy Alston playing both Accordion and Keyboards, Iain Harvie playing guitar and sometimes bass, and Currie himself switching between bass and acoustic guitar.
As their time drew to an end, Currie said “How about something a little more punk rock?”, before kicking into their hit “Roll to Me.” When it started, I said “Oh yeah, I know this song! But wait, they must be covering it, it’s originally by… by… uh…” and sure enough, it’s originally by them, I just never knew the artist name. The crowd rose to their feet to dance along to this quick throwback hit.
Five for Fighting
Vladimir John Ondrasik III, best known by his stage name, Five for Fighting, was up next. The singer would move seamlessly throughout his set between played guitar or grand piano while singing. I found him to be very engaging with the audience during his performance. Well known guitarist Pete Thorn, who has played with musicians like Don Henley and Melissa Etheridge, and has a sizable youtube following of his own, is in the group’s current lineup, and his playing certainly shined through when called for.
Toward the end of their set, we got #1 singles played back-to-back, with “Superman (It’s not Easy)” and “100 Years,” the latter of which saw Thorn borrow the guitar solo from Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin.” Not content to leave the audience with those, however, they finished off their set with a fantastic rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” An ambitious song to attempt to take on live, and it was done well, certainly an enjoyable end to their set.
Believe it or not, Barenaked Ladies have been rocking audiences for 35 years now! Of course, most of us in the States became familiar with them with 1998’s hit “One Week,” but the band has had countless hits over the years, and their unique sense of humor makes for a great performance.
Opening with “Matter of Time,” and then going into one of their early hits, “It’s All Been Done,” BNL were clearly here to be taken seriously, of course, not too seriously. Hits like “Old Apartment” and “Brian Wilson” tell stories that any other band would likely find too unusual to make work as a song, but with them, it works. They played one song off their most recent album, Detour de Force, “Big Backyard.” The song, written and sung by guitarist Kevin Hearn, tells a story in a similar vein of their early hit, “If I had $1,000,000,” which of course we got toward the end of the show.
Noticeably absent is former co-lead singer Steven Page, who left the band in 2009. Several of the band’s songs played the music video on the screen behind them, and Page could still be seen, but either frontman Ed Robertson or Hearn would take over his vocals. The band still sounds great, but Page did have a distinct voice on those songs.
Robertson would joke throughout the night with the audience about all sorts of topics, such as bass player Jim Creeggan always giving 125%, while he himself would give 70%. He spotted a child in the first few rows with a sign saying it was their first concert ever, and he proceeded to use many expletives while describing what the child would think of any show they’d see after tonight. “It’s ok if you say those words later if you use air quotes to show that I said it!”
Toward the end of the set, the band played a medley of a wide range of popular songs, including “As it Was” by Harry Styles, “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus, “Take on Me” by Aha, and “Rock of Ages” by Def Leppard. Nobody else could get away with a medley like that. The show finished off with all members of del Amitri and Five for Fighting joining the band on stage for a cover of the classic rock hit “Jet Airliner.”