Concert Reviews
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Live Review: Ben Folds Five, Barenaked Ladies at Chicago’s Northerly Island (7/9)

on July 10, 2013, 12:56pm

barenakedladiesbachrodt7 Live Review: Ben Folds Five, Barenaked Ladies at Chicagos Northerly Island (7/9)

Although the happiest attendees at this show were probably in college during the ’90s, Barenaked Ladies and Ben Folds Five drew an age-diverse and enthusiastic crowd to Northerly Island’s FirstMerit Bank Pavilion in Chicago last night. The two co-headliners, who have also been touring with Guster on their second incarnation of the Last Summer on Earth tour, realize that they’re only getting older and that it’s most fulfilling for them and for their fans to play nostalgic sets laden with older material.

For both bands, especially Barenaked Ladies, older material remained vital and urgent. Save for the occasional face-in-palm-worthy line (“I could hide out under there/ I just made you say, ‘underwear’”) from Barenaked Ladies, hits like “Pinch Me”, “One Week”, and “It’s All Been Done” were crisp along with fan favorites “The Old Apartment”, “Be My Yoko Ono”, “Brian Wilson”, and “If I Had $1,000,000”. They were quite transparent about their age, as keyboardist Kevin Hearn and lead singer Ed Robertson made some cracks about being around for 25 years during “Gonna Walk”. On “Every Subway Car”, Robertson brought out his son Lyle to play both guitars and keyboards, even letting the kid solo a bit, after which Lyle fist-pounded Hearn and left the stage like a 13-year-old rock star.

barenakedladiesbachrodt11 Live Review: Ben Folds Five, Barenaked Ladies at Chicagos Northerly Island (7/9)

Later on, the band played the first verse to Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” prior to “One Week” and covered Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” at the end of their first encore. The biggest surprise of the night, however, was the band’s rap finale toward the end of the first set. As Hearn messed around with keyboard recordings, Robertson, bassist Jim Creeggan, and drummer Tyler Stewart participated in a medley of some of the summer’s biggest pop songs, from “Thrift Shop” to “Get Lucky”, only to end with the dusty classic “Blinded by the Light”. So, even if their new material isn’t as fresh as their classics, their sense of humor is on par with their professional instrumentation and ears for melody.

Comparatively, Ben Folds Five was a little rougher around the instruments. Drummer Darren Jessee and bassist Robert Sledge were dexterous and messy enough to effectively mirror the themes of Folds’ songs: breakups, wars, abortions, and everything in between. Nonetheless, they had their jam moments, the most notable of which was a segue jam between “Narcolepsy” and the anthemic “Song for the Dumped”. And Folds, known for his crowd interaction, led the audience in a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for one of his friends, videotaping it all. On the surface, Folds is a fairly mainstream and by-the-numbers pop songsmith with enough “alternative” in him to cover songs like The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” and, independent of its dated irony, Dr. Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit”. But Folds has also always been direct and foul, turning into a madman on the keyboards and behind the mic.

benfoldsfivebachrodt3 Live Review: Ben Folds Five, Barenaked Ladies at Chicagos Northerly Island (7/9)

Packaged together, the sweet, infectious, not too serious music of Barenaked Ladies effectively complemented Folds’ poetic, emotional, bleakly funny tales of relationship injustice. If ’90s couture is back, last night’s show at least followed suit, exemplifying why certain bands stick around — and not just on the radio.

Photography by Gretchen Bachrodt.

Barenaked Ladies Setlist:
Limits
Did I Say That Out Loud?
Pinch Me
Gonna Walk
Every Subway Car
Best Damn Friend
Be My Yoko Ono
Brian Wilson
Odds Are
Big Band Theory Theme
One Week
If I Had $1,000,000
Rap Medley
Encore:
The Old Apartment
Alcohol
Encore 2:
It’s All Been Done

Ben Folds Five Setlist:
Michael Praytor, Five Years Later
One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces
Missing the War
Erase Me
Sky High
Landed
Draw a Crowd
Philosophy
Do It Anyway
Brick
Narcolepsy
Song for the Dumped
Army

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