BWW Review: BWW REVIEWS: BACK TO BEING A DUO, PAGE SHINES AGAIN IN NEWARK at 31 West Ballroom

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BWW Review: BWW REVIEWS: BACK TO BEING A DUO, PAGE SHINES AGAIN IN NEWARK at 31 West Ballroom

When he started to develop a name for himself, Steven Page and former Barenaked Ladies bandmate Ed Robertson were a duo playing small college towns as the opening act for an improv comedy troupe.

Flash forward 30 years, Page found himself again as a part of a duo for a Oct. 19 gig at the Thirty-One West Ballroom in downtown Newark. Only this time Page was with guitarist Craig Northey and he was the improv act. Page, who left BNL in 2008, left the audience chuckling and snorting as he and Northey breezed through a two-hour, 19-song set in front of a packed house. The pair mixed in the Barenaked Ladies chestnuts that he was the front man on, like "Jane," "It's All Been Done," "The Old Apartment," "Break Your Heart," and "Call and Answer" and then exposed his older fans to his solid new material, including "Wilted Rose," "A New Shore," and "Looking for the Light."

In between, Page poked fun at everything from Billy Joel and Air Supply to marionettes, but his biggest target was himself. After switching mid-set from one acoustic guitar to another identical looking guitar, Page said to the audience, "There's no difference in the sound between these two. I just like pretending I'm in a guitar store. The thing is I'm not really that great of a guitarist. When I go into a guitar store, I'll start playing one of my songs because they're the ones I can play. The clerk will usually say, 'Can I help you, sir?' Or 'He may look like him, but he's not (Page)."

Northey then chimed in, "Or it's 'Are you looking for a guitar for your son, sir?'"

Page planned on returning to Newark as a trio but cellist Kevin Fox had pulled out of the show due to a previous engagement, but the duo paid homage to the cellist with an oversized picture of Fox's head hanging off one of the curtains.

"Originally, it was his whole body, but we cut the head off," Northey joked.

Later in the show, Page shouted out "Cello solo!" and the two jammed together beneath Fox's oversized head.

Fox's brooding strings were sorely missed from Page's occasionally morose material including BNL somber tunes like "War On Drugs" and "Good Boy," mixed with his equally dark solo material, like "Where Do You Stand?" After receiving a standing ovation after a powerful reading of "War On Drugs," Page said cheekily, "It's been awhile since I've been in BNL but it warms my heart to see you guy still like the dark ones."

Page's ability to merge witty rejoinders with his sobering songs is surpassed only by his ability to jump from his own material to others. Sometimes, it is poignant like when he segued from "Brian Wilson" into Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge of Troubled Waters."

Other times, he does it for comic effect. As he slid behind a piano, the singer launched into a montage of Air Supply hits for no apparent reason. In the middle of his cover of "I'm All Out of Love," he warbled, "Oooh, what are you thinking of?" and then pretended to be searching for the next line before repeating "Oooh, what are you thinking of?" two or three more times. He then asked the crowd, "Can you guess the next line?" before repeating "Oooh, what are you thinking of?" two more times.

"Sorry about that," he said later. "Sometimes, you get stuck in that Air Supply loop."

The show marked the second time Page has chosen to play Newark in the span of a year. One doesn't know when Page will come into Newark or the Ohio area again, but one doesn't need to worry about getting stuck in a loop of hearing the same songs in concert. As long as he keeps finding a way to keep his show original and fresh, fans will keep coming back.



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From This Author Paul Batterson