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Barenaked Ladies embrace the future

Popular Canadian band plays Whistler Olympic Plaza on Sunday

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WHO: Barenaked Ladies, with Brother Twang

WHERE: Whistler Olympic Plaza

WHEN: Sunday, Aug. 21, 7 p.m.

 

When the Barenaked Ladies play Whistler this weekend, fans will see a more cohesive group than the last time they had played. That was in February for the Olympics and at the time, the band was still getting used to being a four-piece following the departure of Steven Page in late 2009. It was a strange time, no doubt.

"We were a little scared at first (after Page left), thinking, you know, 'Can we do this?'" says drummer Tyler Stewart. "But I think deep down I knew we always could because essentially it's the same band. It's just minus one guy."

Since their "Olympic flurry" they've been touring non-stop, which Stewart says has allowed the remaining band members - himself, Ed Robertson, Jim Creegan and Kevin Hearn - to get comfortable in their formation.

They've had to embrace new roles - Creegan's stand-up bass has been swapped for an electric while Stewart has taken on more singing duties than ever before. The band may look a little different but Stewart argues it's still the same band, even if a familiar voice is missing. The fans just want to hear the songs anyway. That's the bottom line.

"That's the most important thing and it's what we've come to terms with as a four piece," Stewart says. "We're heavily invested in this and we have emotional ties and issues surrounding some of this music but the fans don't. They really don't. They want to see a group performing the songs that they love and doing it with integrity."

Their live show is what has carried them for two decades. Their early shows were rife with a youthful exuberance that rocked without being "rock music" in the aesthetic sense. Even after they had broken through to the American mainstream with their 1998 album Stunt , the live show was integral to sustaining their fan base. They rocked by necessity because if they hadn't, Stewart says, they wouldn't have been as successful as they have been.

"We're out in front of 10,000 people, we better f****n' rock otherwise they're going to go to sleep. Let's make this exciting," he says.

While best known for their whimsical and humorous work in the 90s with songs like "If I Had a Million Dollars" and "One Week," their last decade's output has reflected more maturity as the members have grown up, had kids and seen success . But 2010's All in Good Time is their most serious album and, not ironically, their first without Page.

Recording that album was a cathartic experience for the band, defined by a need to prove themselves as a four-piece while they worked through difficulties of Page's departure. The whimsy and playfulness had been traded in for a sound more rock-oriented and visceral than they had ever produced.

"The relationship was so close and intense for 20 years. When a relationship breaks up, I don't think you can help but write songs that reflect the emotions surrounding a break up," Stewart says.

Now, a year later, the pressure has receded. They'll head into the studio this fall in good spirits, which will likely liberate some of the creativity for the next album.

"You don't want to get too relaxed and just mail it in but it'll be interesting to see where we're at this time around," Stewart says.

"The personalities in the band have become a little more defined. We all had to take on more. Everyone's taken on more ownership of the group and I really think that's a positive thing."

 

 

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