The evening was off to a rough start. I walk to and from my office; normally, I find this a pleasant way to gear up for/wind down from the work day. However, this was not an average walk. Maybe it's just that I'm outside more here, but I really do think that Regina's weather tends to be more intense than in Saskatoon. Most of the time, this means that the wind gets windier, but on this day, the rain was rainier. Barenaked Ladies would later describe the rainfall as "biblical." By the time I was a block from my apartment, I had abandoned all hope, and was just plowing directly through the puddles, which at one spot hit mid-calf. The drainage system in Regina is most definitely not drainier.
So I got inside, showered, changed, ate, and prepared to head back out. And when I say "changed," I mean that I had to change everything. I figured for one night I could wear my dress shoes with jeans. They're not THAT dressy, and besides, nobody would be looking at my feet anyway. Then I opened the closet and remembered that oh yeah, I WAS going to buy new dress shoes sometime. Guess I never got around to it. That left me with sandals, winter boots, or fuzzy Animaniacs slippers from 1995. I like how I had to mention the age there as though THAT'S the reason I chose not to wear fuzzy slippers to a concert. Anyway, given a nice varied range of unacceptable choices, I decided to stick with my wet shoes, hoping that wearing three pairs of socks would help. I can't say it didn't help, but it didn't help a lot.
I got to the Conexus Arts Centre with about ten minutes to spare. I like these shows where I can time things properly and sit in chairs that are almost nice and be home on time. Despite what you must now be thinking, I was far from the oldest person at the concert - far from the youngest, too. Just a guy sitting in the second row. Good seats are easy to get if you're going by yourself. I didn't think I'd have a lot of luck getting someone to go with me. The tickets were fairly costly and I really don't know how many people care about Barenaked Ladies these days. I haven't thought the last few albums were anything special - really, nothing dating back to that song about the monkey postcards.
Before the show, I had just enough time to check out the stuff table. Nothing exciting. No shirts I'd probably ever wear, and albums I (or Mika) already own. BNL were selling their newest album but I didn't pick one up since I got a free download with the ticket purchase. I assume a lot of people there got it too - does anyone buy tickets anywhere other than online anymore? Not that I don't appreciate having a tangible physical album to take up space on my yellow shelf, but I really don't listen to much music these days that isn't being played off a hard drive or USB stick.
Joel Plaskett, accompanied by Peter Elkas, took the stage right on time. The short review is that their set was a delight, though it was way too short (about 35 minutes) and I wished it had been Barenaked Ladies opening for him instead of the other way around. Judging by what Mika said, they played the same songs at the Saskatoon show the night before, with one exception - someone in Regina yelled out for Fashionable People, so we got that and Saskatoon didn't. Which is fine and all, I like that song and their two-man version of it was pretty amusing, but I prefer Penny For Your Thoughts, which they played in Saskatoon. Stupid people yelling from the crowd and taking my song away. But whatever - it was still a really fun performance. Joel Plaskett always comes across like he's delighted that anyone has paid to see him and this delight is infectious. I'm not sure how anyone could have a bad time at one of his shows. And once again, we were told that he'd be back in the fall; I remain hopeful but I have been burned by that little white lie before.
Now, I didn't have the highest hopes for Barenaked Ladies. I'd seen them before, many years ago, and have been a fan for many years, but either their music or my taste has changed over time. Like I said above, I haven't really cared for their latest albums, and I haven't listened to the older ones in a long time. Add to that the departure of one of the group's key songwriters and vocalists, and I really wasn't sure what I was in for.
All in all, I had a pretty good time. BNL has always been better live than recorded, and the recent lineup change hasn't altered that. I really can't say there were many times when I noticed Steven Page's absence at all. Though each band member was given their own turns in the spotlight, it was Ed Robertson who handled most of the lead vocals, and... I can't say he did a Steven Page impression, exactly, but it seemed like he sang Steven's songs the way he was used to hearing them. In a few parts, Kevin Hearn took over Page's vocals and those sounded quite different than what I was used to, but not in a bad way.
As expected, there was much wacky banter and made-up songs and running jokes as the evening went on. I'm not sure how I feel about that; sometimes this could be really amusing, but at times, the wackiness felt... if not scripted, then at least scheduled. Like, every night between song #4 and song #5, it's time to crack wise at each other and make up a song about it.
Speaking of the songs, there was a decent mix of older numbers and new ones, with three songs from their first album, probably a half-dozen or so from their latest, and a few scattered about from the rest of their albums (as well as the theme song to The Big Bang Theory, which was a special request from someone in the crowd). Judging from what Mika said, the setlist was at least somewhat varied from the previous night's show (from the sounds of it, Regina got more older songs, which is fine by me). And they didn't play Another Postcard, a truly horrible song about chimpanzees that was one of the most ill-advised singles in the entire history of recorded music, so really, I have nothing to complain about, setlist-wise.
Since I'd bought the ticket specifically to see Joel Plaskett, it was an awfully pricey evening - more than double the cost of the last time I'd seen him, for a set that was less than half as long. But of course, that's not a fair comparison, and it's one that feels like nitpicking since I had a better time at the show than I expected. At the cost of the ticket (around $75 for just me, once you got all the fees and taxes in there), I wouldn't automatically go again, but with the right opening act, I'd probably be there.