Barenaked Ladies – Rocks Red Rocks (Album Review)

For almost thirty years, Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies have been delighting fans with their unique blend of catchy tunes and ingenious lyrics. Best known for their 1998 smash hit ‘One Week’, as well as providing the theme song for The Big Bang Theory, the band have developed a cult following of loyal fans.

Following the release of last year’s ‘Silverball’, the band’s twelfth studio album, comes a brand new live recording, ‘BNL Rocks Red Rocks’, recorded at the world famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado on 10th June, 2015.

As part of their ‘Last Summer on Earth’ tour, the band were supported in their exploits by fan-favourite punk rock trio Violent Femmes, as well as Men at Work frontman Colin Hay, thus creating a once in a lifetime experience for fans.

Of course, capturing the live event on a recording is never the easiest of affairs; in a world where every fan is poised to bootleg their favourite tunes on their handy iPhone, producing a high quality concert recording seems somewhat obsolete. Listening to ‘BNL Rocks Red Rocks’, however, really shows that no smartphone will ever get that playback quality a professional sound engineer delivers.

With a kick-ass setlist, featuring the perfect blend of the old and the new, BNL deliver a gig that would please any audience member, from the diehard fan to the most casual of listeners. Lead singer Ed Robertson, despite beginning to sound somewhat more mature in his vocalities, continues to deliver with the same endearing enthusiasm he once shared with co-founder Steven Page, whose absence, though known to fans of the group, is far from obvious in the final product.

Beginning proceedings with the infectious ‘Get Back Up’ from the Silverball album, the band go on to perform the anthemic ‘Old Apartment’ before expertly weaving through a selection of new songs such as the delightful ‘Duct Tape Heart’ and the singalong single ‘Gonna Walk’, to classics like ‘One Week’ and ‘Brian Wilson’, before completing the set with drummer Tyler Stewart taking the mic for a Jack Black-esque rendition of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock and Roll’.

Highlights include a truly unique rendition of the Men at Work classic ‘Who Can it Be Now?’, in which Colin Hay joins the band, along with Violent Femmes saxophonist Blaise Garza for one of the finest collaborations live music has seen in years. This is followed by the lovely ‘Passcode’, performed by BNL pianist Kevin Hearn, which, despite its “oh, let’s give Kevin a chance” feel, actually delivers one of the gig’s most wonderfully understated moments.

One thing that feels sadly amiss is the onstage banter for which BNL are so very well known. In the edit, this has been mostly omitted, save, as always, for during their rousing rendition of the iconic ‘If I Had $1000000’. The lack of natter and tomfoolery does leave ‘Rocks Red Rocks’ as something more of a collection of live recordings than an actual BNL gig, but for the quality of the renditions, this can be somewhat forgiven.

That said, overall, ‘BNL Rocks Red Rocks’ remains a fantastic piece of band memorabilia; a lesson on “how to make a great gig”; a greatest hits with a casual sprinkling of their finest new material, and a definite must-have for any fan.

4/5

 

BNL Rocks Red Rocks is available from 20th May.