Fake Nudes, Real Laughs with BNL at the NAC

Feature image by Thom Fountain 

“This! This is Catelli Dinner. The song says Kraft! Does this town not have that?” chuckled Barenaked Ladies' Ed Robertson before ripping off the top of a packet of powdered cheese and downing it in a single gulp. This happened April 13th, 1993 in Cornwall, Ontario. It was the second concert I’d seen but the first time witnessing a grown man eating powdered cheese.

That, kids, is how you make lifelong fans.

Nearly 25 years later, watching BNL romp around the National Arts Centre stage last night, I find myself suddenly transported back into my teenage body, acne and all. Yikes! On my head sits a plaid hat that reads Barenaked, something I couldn’t wear to school. Next to me is my friend Trevor and somewhere in the crowd by the stage is a young Ryan Gosling. Outside of this and the Catelli powdered cheese, I don’t remember much else but whooshing back to present day what sticks from this long ago show is enough to make me think:

1) Does Jim Creeggan age?


2) Even without powdered cheese accentuating their act (and minus a few bandmates since 1993), the BNL’s camaraderie is still amazing. These guys haven’t lost a single thread in the patchwork of their hilarity. In another age, they would have been darlings of vaudeville.

“I don’t know how many times we’ve played at the National Arts Centre but I still don’t know how to get in,” quipped Robertson about the difficulties in navigating the even nearly reno’ed NAC. “I don’t know where to go once I get in. If I make a wrong turn coming out of the dressing room I could very well miss the show. I’ll turn up in Green Gables or something.”

The laughs would continue throughout a show that featured new cuts from the band’s recent –and topically titled– Fake Nudes mixed in with hits. Though tunes like “The Old Apartment”, “Pinch Me” and “One Week” were bound to please, it was often the Barenaked banter between songs that elicited the biggest reactions.

Mid-way through the set two fans near the front unfurled a sign inviting Creeggan to their wedding. This would become fodder for the remaining Ladies all evening as they lightly jabbed their bassist for being excluded. Also the subject of some good natured ribbing was Robertson’s covered in white dog hair t-shirt, a hasty replacement after his usual stage outfit tore.

“But I don’t even have a white haired dog,” proclaimed Robertson, causing others in the band to add to the mystery with drummer Tyler Stewart attempting to piece together the puzzle CSI-style!

The show opened so dipped in Canadiana you could practically smell the maple. Gordon Lightfoot’s voice sung the band on stage where new cut “Canada Dry” kicked off the night with images of Crosby drinking from Lord Stanley, Saskatoon sunsets and crying over Joni Mitchell songs.

Fans received a sort of rekindling of MUCH’s Intimate and Interactive show with the band doing a mini-acoustic set in front of a cascading curtain which include stripped down versions of “Alternative Girlfriend” and “Enid”. Robertson ensured that the curtain would rise eventually for their usual blast of catchy hooks and choreography. Bonus, Stewart would get a regular sized drum kit!

By the time classic “If I Had $1,000,000” was performed, smiles in the NAC seats beamed as bright as the Christmas tree in the lobby. It’s a near impossible task to leave a BNL performance without feeling like you’ve taken a swan dive into a big ol’ pool of happiness.

The band has a way of making you feel nostalgic even if you didn’t first walk into the party 24 years ago. Maybe it’s the NKOTB style dancing or encore filled with classic rock hits. Over the course of the evening, outside of wedding invitations, bras and stuffed monkeys were lobbed on stage leaving this long-time fan lamenting his lack of carting along some Catelli.

Well, there’s always next time.


Canada Dry
Blame It on Me
The Township of King
Alternative Girlfriend

Brian Wilson
Odds Are
Bringing It Home
Invisible Fence
Gonna Walk
The Old Apartment
We Took the Night
Hello City
Lookin’ Up
Pinch Me
Big Bang Theory Theme
One Week
If I Had $1,000,000
Barenaked Rap

Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin cover)
Blister in the Sun (Violent Femmes cover)